Well three weeks is certainly a long time in Norn Iron Politics. I was pretty disappointed as the results came thru. But today as the new Executive takes up office, I am actually quite happy.
As it turns out, the biggest loser is the Alliance Party. That delights me. In hindsight, they have had power beyond their mandate since 2011 and getting used to being “also rans” in the Assembly will be hard for them. No mandate for Government and no mandate for Opposition. They wont even be chairing a scrutinising committee.
They really should have seen it coming. I cant believe that canvas returns over the last two months led them to believe they would turn eight Assembly seats into the magical TEN to claim an Executive seat “as of right”. So clearly they thought that David Ford could dial a friend at DUP-SF and that they would be given a lifeline thru the Justice Department. Indeed they were so confident that they presented demands to DUP-SF….were kicked out after less than ten minutes and optimistically left the door open for DUP-SF to come back to Alliance. And they….didn’t.
The Alliance Party do not take reversals well. They have an exaggerated sense of their own righteousness. So cue internal bickering which will see David Ford resign sooner rather than later. And the television appearances tonight should be interesting. David Ford will be doing his irritating Mr Angry impersonation. And self-styled Ginga Ninja, Naomi Long will do her shrill Ginga Whinga act.
The New Executive is indeed different. Streamlined to just eight ministries. UUP and SDLP preferring the dignity (and pragmatism) of Opposition to giving any credence to the Executive being anything more than a DUP-Sinn Féin coalition. With SF also failing to get a magic number of MLAs….THIRTY (Petition of Concern veto mechanism) ….Sinn Féin is now reduced to being a “junior partner in a centre-right coalition” (credit to Christopher Stalford MLA).
And of course the New Executive only gets off the ground because the impasse over Justice is unblocked by Claire Sugden MLA, Independent Unionist taking up the invitation from Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness.
Claire Sugden’s three weeks has been better than David Fords.
Nominally the Justice role has gone from a “Neutral” party Alliance. But seriously does anyone think that Alliance isnt “unionist”. While Colum Eastwood is right that SF view of Justice is “no nationalist need apply”, I would regard both Claire Sugden and David Ford as “independent unionists”.
To be a unionist or indeed nationalist does not imply unfairness in the delicate role of Justice Minister. It is about appearances. The bottom line is that whether thru Inquests, Inquiries or Investigations, there is little hope for victims of Injustice. The British Government and Sinn Féin are guarantors that Justice will always be denied. Is Claire Sugden the Minister to unlock the Truth?
Well….Arlene and Marty would not have asked her if they thought she was.
She is being dismissed too easily….and a lot of it seems gender based, a 29 year old woman elected for the first time, just three weeks ago. True, there is nothing in the previous Assembly (she was a co-option) to indicate that she will be a stunning success. Nor is there anything to indicate she will be a disaster. Necessarily the role of an Independent back bencher is limited.
We should be more mature. Is she a DUP-SF stooge? Or will she turn out to be their worst nightmare…independent. And how will she handle or be handled by the mandarins and assorted spooks within the Department of Justice….not to mention PSNI, Prisons Service, the Law Officers like Larkin and McGrory and the heavyweights in the Judiciary?
As for the rest of the Executive.
Good choices on DUP side. Peter Weir (ex UUP like his boss Arlene) will be an asset and some deadwood has been weeded. Looks more like Arlene Foster’s choices than Peter Robinson’s.
As expected, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir gets an Executive post…Finance. And whether or not you regard him as genius or a shameless self publicist, it will be interesting two years before he is booted out to be replaced by another SF MLA.