I was delighted that this blog drew the attention of the House of Commons on Monday, with Liberal Democrat spokesperson Alisdair Carmichael implying that it was, after all, perfectly reasonable to accuse the Ulster Unionists of being all but terrorists for daring to have quibbles about a deal which leaves the current, dysfunctional devolved structures in place.
The suggestion is that Mr Carmichael, and presumably his party colleagues, believe in any kind of devolution as long as it’s the type you can boss around from Westminster. So much for the party of government close to the people!
The people of North Down want devolution of policing and justice, but they want it to devolved structures which actually work, and they most certainly do not want another set of negotiations (and carved up concessions) in two years’ time. The LibDems used to be interested in political reform, but that is another principle which, it appears, has disappeared along with free tuition and mansion tax. Instead they are quite content to leave in place structures which have delivered educational gridlock and public service reform deadlock. The children, parents, patients, graduates, pensioners, families and working people of Northern Ireland are suffering the effects.
The Belfast and St Andrews Agreements will stand or die by the quality of the institutions. Currently, they are not functioning and are subject to popular ridicule. It is time for change. The LibDems should be joining us in meeting the challenge of getting the structures right. As it is, they are not being very Liberal, and they are content to leave in place institutions which are barely democratic. North Down and Northern Ireland deserve better.