I blame LetsGetAlongerists.
They havent gone away ya know.
There is of course something hypocritical about Votes of No Confidence. Its a bit like shouting “Penalty!!” or “Offside!!!” At the TV screen when you are watching a football match involving your favourite team.
Sometimes…your team does not get the penalty that any neutral would say it deserved. And sometimes the team your team is playing gets away with a blatant offside. Sometimes the referee appears on the side of the other team…or maybe just an incompetent buffoon.
Take that Vote of Confidence in Stormont earlier this week. These things occur when an Opposition is being opportunistic or (as in the case with RHI) when the Opposition has the Government “bang to rights”.
By any reasonable standard, RHI is a scandal and the call for the First Minister to stand aside is a reasonable one…but it brings out the partisanship and DUP MLAs were forced to walk thru the lobby to support Arlene Foster.
Nobody in SDLP (who led on the issue) or UUP will be disappointed that the vote “failed”. Much more importantly, DUP was exposed as incompetent and DUP MLAs exposed as hypocrites.
Likewise Sinn Féin was exposed as DUP poodles…or if youre a SF troll or just very gullible, Sinn Féin was exposed as just looking like DUP poodles but are actually the greatest political brains in the world, with a strategy that mere mortals cant comprehend.
But really DUP voting for Arlene is hardly a surprise. Nor is SDLP, UUP, Green, TUV and PBP voting against Arlene a surprise. Nor is Sinn Féin cowardice.
Consider…Claire Sugden, the Independent Unionist MLA for East Derry. She is the Minister for Justice (dont laugh!) ….the glue that holds the DUP-Sinn Féin one-party state together. She might well be a moderate and maybe even a former UUP member but she dutifully supported her benefactors ….ah “collective responsibility” dontcha just love it????
A thought occurs…if Ms Sugden was unburdened by all that “collective responsibility”, would she perhaps have voted with the Opposition?
Of course, I was delighted that Ms Sugden got the Justice gig rather than an Alliance MLA. They had lobbied for it in a curious way….with a sense of entitlement AND grovelling in an embarrassing way.
A second thought occurs. If Naomi Long was Minister for Justice, how would the Alliance Party have voted on Monday?
It is not as if the Alliance Party does not have form in this regard. Their peculiar set of principles entitled them to an Executive seat beyond their electoral mandate from 2011 to 2016. And remember how a few years ago, some Alliance MLAs re-designated themselves as “unionist” as procedural device to keep this show on the road.
Who exactly is responsible for keeping this Stormont farce going? It is not merely DUP and their obedient Sinn Féin poodle. Or even the highly “principled” LetsGetAlongerists within the Assembly.
This sham is held together by LetsGetAlongerists outside the Assembly. I cant imagine that our banking community, business community, civic society, academics, arts and culture sector, trade unions, civil service etc have that many members who would vote DUP and Sinn Féin…it would not go down well at the Golf Club and the Yacht Club. But our society (if the Ulster Tatler is a good guide) has a helluva lot of hangers-on who love to be seen having a vol-au-vent at any old reception in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings and having their photograph taken with Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Simon Hamilton ….or hitting the jackpot and getting a selfie with Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness.
The Opposition DID read the public mood right this week. The Public are disgusted. But Votes of Confidence are all very well…indeed the political landscape has changed, at least temporarily.
But I would be more impressed if some of the hangers-on turned down an invitation to share a vol-au- vent with Peter Weir or actually refused to invite Michelle O’Neill to the opening of their new nail bar business. Or took Máirtín ÓMuilleoir off their Facebook page.