Friday 19 September 2014

Please Sir, do Northern Ireland have to take more?

So the only land border in these British Isles will remain the one that starts on the western shore of Lough Foyle just south of Muff and stretches around the six most north easterly counties of the second largest isle and into Carlingford Lough beside Newry.

The talk of course, in light of the result in Scotland's independence referendum last night, is that there will be a deal deal on devolution to not just them but England, Wales and Northern Ireland too. So what does it mean to those six counties surrounded by than only land boundary with the Eurozone.

The first is that one major power that that part of the UK wants is the power to adjust their Corporation Tax levels to be able to compete with their new neighbours. But what about the powers that they already have? There is already too much of a them and us mentality on various matters, petitions of concern are constantly being used to secure a veto by one community of another. So maybe to allow them to work with more power is a chance to make Stormont work together in a different way.

Maybe one of the powers that is taken away from Northern Ireland to enable policy to be carried is the requirement for a cross community vote at the moment the largest party on either side can stifle the vote, and those that designate as others say it voided. Maybe there is leverage there to maintain the weighted majority of 60% for an area of concern but do away with the need for 40% of each community to also agree. This would led to the ability of cross community agreement but also give the smaller parties and those that designate as other at present to have an equal say in legislation. It might also be a good idea to set up some sort of ombudsman to lay out guidelines and judge if they are met for such a new petition of concern being tabled, one of those areas that it should be done away with is when the competency of a Minister is being debated.

If we can do away with the designations of unionist or nationalist we may well have politics that instead of concentration on them uns and us uns will actually look at the needs of all the people. It may even led to people voting for parties because of what they stand for rather that who they stand with as then you wouldn't necessarily want a party that is conservative standing to block things that benefit others but voting for a party whose policies benefit you and your vision of Northern Ireland.

I think if we are looking at giving more power to Northern Ireland we have to give that power to the people irrespective of who they vote for doing away with the sectarianism is one step. The other might be to create an official opposition. There would need to be a way of looking at this. It would do away with the d'Hondt system of appointing ministers, who would then be only within the hands of the partied of Government, but the danger then is that the Unionists would form that Government between them, so it could be back to the bad old days of the 60s carving up the plum positions only within unionism which would be a retrograde step. This may well be a step too far for Northern Irish politicians and indeed their voters at this time and have to return to the back burner.

But the one thing is that if Northern Ireland is to be given more powers I suspect that we need to look at how better to operate the powers that they currently have to enable progression rather than stagnation.

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