Last week’s vote for welfare reform in the Assembly had a comfortable majority. It is possible, even likely, that the next vote on same-sex marriage will also have a majority. Yet both are/will be blocked.
The iniquitous “Petition of Concern” is the problem. It appears a technicality, but it is in fact an excuse for abusing equality mechanisms for the sake of petty and vindictive politics on issues which have nothing to do with our traditional community balance or human rights protection.
It is not a victimless tool. We are now threatened with 28% cuts, as well as ongoing bias and even hatred towards a particular group, because of it. Economically and socially, we cannot tolerate this.
Its use for purposes other than protecting human rights and ensuring one traditional community does not batter the other one should be stopped immediately – by Westminster intervention if necessary (see last blog for my other recommended interventions!)
That would be the first stop. The second is the issue of so-called “mandatory coalition”. In fact, we do not have mandatory coalition but rather a non-mandatory opposition combined with a non-collective government. The penalty for this is that the only alternative people see to the devolved Executive is Direct Rule. I suspect that alternative now has majority support in Northern Ireland – despite the fact it is fundamentally undemocratic and not what we voted for in 1998! This is not because people are undemocratic, but because they now want an alternative – Direct Rule should not be the only one available.
It is unclear, in current circumstances, whether Independent Unionist John McCallister’s Bill to create an Opposition (and, more to the point, require a collective government) will ever see the light of day. As it happens, I have seen it and, while I do not agree with every subsection by any means, it is a lot better than what we currently have. The NIO could do worse than invite him to Hillsborough Castle for tea!
The fundamental problem is that we have parties in office in Northern Ireland but not in government. They want all the trappings, but none of the responsibility. The only “collective decision making” consists of the big parties bullying the smaller ones. The Emperor has no clothes. It is time we had the option of an alternative.