A snowball is now rolling within the Northern Ireland Executive which means that, seemingly, without a blatant climbdown by one party or the other the Executive will fall, necessitating elections.
Such elections would be utterly pointless of course because, assuming they returned roughly the same Assembly as in May, all the problems at the root of the Executive’s trials would remain. (A few more would be created too – the “convenient” Justice Minister which saved the Executive from an immediate collapse after the last election would probably lose her seat, for example.)
No, at the heart of this, just over half a year in, is the simple fact that the people of Northern Ireland elected into government two parties who are incapable of and uninterested in governing.
People therefore lose give up on “politics”, but actually we should know better than anyone that the choice is between politics and violence. Politics therefore has to be made to work. There is a cost – in drugs unfunded, operations missed and schools unresourced – for having unable and uninterested people in government.
The fact is you could almost pick ten people at random off the street and they would provide a more competent government than the Executive we have (the one we elected). At least some of them would have a basic ability to get on with each other.
The DUP’s story is, of course, not straight. Low level issues concerning the recipients of office rent and maintenance contract have now become huge public interest stories of public money shuffled through mysterious incompetence to people who, some might say suggest, just happen to fit the stereotype of a typical DUP supporter. Claims there is only one letter, or that there were no meetings, or that there was SpAd interference, are soon disproved. British libel laws are blocked by a purportedly British party and the free press attacked for doing its job. Meanwhile the party professes to stay loyal to a Leader whose Ministerial career has consisted of one error or oversight after another, as so eloquently outlined by the Green Party leader on the Assembly floor before Christmas. That Leader is of course capable of absolutely no charity to her coalition partners, literally from Day One talking up the past and even before Day One suggesting she had to remain Finance Minister while her colleagues played hokey-cokey because Nationalists as an entire group could not be trusted with the purse strings (what goes around comes around, it turns out…)
Not that Sinn Féin is an innocent party by any means. It has had the chance to deliver on key issues for it such as an Irish Language act but failed due to ludicrous overreaching; it too has gone against Business Cases (e.g. the movement of an entire Department to Ballykelly is against advice); it has then shown itself confused about what a public inquiry is and how it works (the ludicrous notion that the politically appointed Attorney General would have anything to do with making appointments to an independent inquiry, for example, shows basic ignorance of the legal system and an unwillingness to become informed even when this is pointed out); and then it too has lashed out at the media merely for pointing out inconsistencies in exactly what its demands are. Meanwhile the left hand is unclear what the right hand is doing, and its Finance Minister denies any involvement in the scandal despite plainly knowing about it since before a Committee meeting in early October and holding an office through which he could act to limit the damage.
Fundamentally, if the DUP and Sinn Féin cannot work together, then they have no business going to the electorate pretending they can and then just hobbling from crisis to crisis. No matter how good they are at populism, the fact that elections could even be spoken of only eight months after the last ones shows how utterly useless they are at democratic government.
After all, it does not take a genius to see that, in a democracy, when things go wrong you have a proper independent inquiry into who was responsible and what can be learned. So why is the Executive set against this obvious course of action?
They are not only useless, but they evidently also have something to hide, just as they hide their donors. The notion of pointless elections should not deflect us from that key point.
Oh, and always remember. Pride comes before a fall.