Saturday, 20 September 2014

Please Sir, do Northern Ireland have to take more? Part 2

I wrote yesterday about some of the powers that Northern Ireland wanted to have added to Stormont. It may have been because I was lacking sleep, or maybe because I didn't think anybody really realistically wanted to bring either of these two into our control that I left them off that piece. However, yesterday  I was reminded that my piece was lacking a couple of things.

Firstly in light of the referendum Sinn Féin have called for a similar choice here in Northern Ireland, only for it to be should Northern Ireland become part of united Irish state rather than a question of independence. There is provision and regulation for this set out in the Northern Ireland Act. It is in the gift of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and another "border poll" cannot be called for at least seven years. Of course unlike Scotland the Northern Ireland First Minister says such a poll is not needed.

However, Peter Robinson better be careful of not falling into a trap of assuming something that isn't necessarily the case as some of the Westminster leaders failed to do so. Labour and Conservatives while being part of the Calman Commission in Scotland didn't really take the issue further. The Liberal Democrats of course with their previous Steel Commission and subsequent study by Ming Campbell had discussing such issues in their party DNA and have had debates about further devolution elsewhere as well in recent years.

The option is there to have a poll and it may be worth considering as part of sorting out the long term nature of the UK before you start to work out or agree upon the devolutionary package for all the constituent parts. If Robinson is so confident of winning, especially if more powers are on the way, then what does he have to fear? Apart from seeing how close unionism is to losing, instead of how far nationalism is from uniting Ireland. This of course would not be a question of better alone or better together but rather one of better in one nation or another.

The other thing that I do not believe Northern Ireland politicians seriously think we are ready to have devolved to us is welfare payments. The reason I cannot believe this one is being talked about is the fact that over the last year and more they have been unable to come to a settlement on the little control they have of this themselves to fit into the budget that is being set for them from Westminster. To then even hand over the complex nature of the budgeting of such payments would lead to a quagmire into which the most needy in our society will see the reforms to the payments they relay on disappearing into the indecisiveness of our political "elite".

As I said yesterday if the MLAs at Stormont want to be given more power they must also accept some radical adjustments to the way that they currently work or else the whole thing will grind to an almighty halt. The question still is are they ready to give up some of that unequal power that currently exists to allow us to have more power that is the way with normal procedures across these islands.

1 comment:

  1. It might be better to stop talking about devolution and actually move towards a Federation. With powers given to the Federal Parliament instead of the other way about. I suspect that achieving this would take rather longer than to write and pass the allegedly proposed Scotland Bill.