Stormont: End Game?


While some in the media and elsewhere hold out the faintest of hopes that the Stormont Assembly and Executive are somehow restored (unchanged) at the end of another protracted secret round of negotiations; reality has dawned for most – and it is looking likely that Stormont (in its current format at least) is doomed.

Regrettably, our ‘legislators’ have proven time and time again that they are incapable of workable, transparent, long-term governance in the interests of those they represent. Even if they were capable; they would be hamstrung by a system of Government that isn’t fit for purpose in this day and age.

Since the ultimately flawed Belfast Agreement was signed, there have been a number of various agreements signed off between the larger parties, each one changing the previous  in some shape or form.  There were trade-offs, add-ons and none of these deals were  ever put out for public consultation.  In truth, we have no real idea of what has been agreed along the way. 

The last referendum on any Agreement here was in 1998 and much has changed since then. It’s obvious that we’ve outgrown the institutions that resulted from that negotiation period and  referendum.

Looking at the almost twenty years of on – off ‘Government’ since; it is clear that Legislative devolution in its current guise has ultimately failed us. We have been served years of stop & start, carve-up politics (rife with a whiff of scandal and stuntery.)

The current mandatory model at Stormont was spawned from agreements signed at a different time. In future, if we’re to return to a form of devolved Government, it should be a  voluntary model that looks towards localism and focuses on locally specific needs and requirements. Additionally, there needs to be a referendum on all future agreements. The people of Northern Ireland deserve to  have a say in future arrangements.

For now, it looks like the Secretary of State will be setting a budget for Northern Ireland over the course of the next week to ten days. Whether the old parties admit this or not; it is Direct Rule in all but name. The one fundamental difference being, our non-legislating legislators will continue to be paid.

A question that many will soon be asking is: How long must we tolerate paying the salaries and expenses for “MLAs in name only.” If they aren’t legislating and they aren’t representing constituents in the Chamber at Parliament Buildings; why should we still be picking up the tab?

Why should failure to govern properly in the interests of the people be rewarded with large salaries for little work?  Couldn’t that money be invested elsewhere? If Stormont is hurtling towards the end-game of its current lifespan, then surely the gravy train should be brought to a halt.