Opinion: A different Assembly model might be the way forward

Opinion piece by David McNarry (former UKIP MLA & NI Leader.)

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Northern Irelanders have lost confidence in an Executive ever being formed let alone surviving more than a few months.

No one is pulling the shutters down on full devolution.  People realise that a solution can only work if it is made possible.

With that in mind, it is possible for Unionism to support something less; provided it proved workable.

I suggest an Advisory Assembly working in tandem with Direct Rule. A more definitive model than others mooted – safe-guarding against a prolonged period of a democratic deficit. An alternative to ‘shadowing’ and a glorified talking shop. A body able to function with or without Sinn Fein. A scrutinising institution able to construct legislative recommendations to the Government.

*A two year tenure Advisory Assembly operating in plenary sessions for approving select committee recommendations and legislative action proposals.

*Select committees to scrutinise Direct-Rule decisions and to call N.I.O. Ministers, Heads of the Civil Service and others to explain their actions on matters of mutual interest.

*Select committees to prepare advice for N.I.O. on legislative proposals .

*A Select committee appointed for Brexit issues

*A select committee appointed to prepare a majority report on restoring Devolution.

*There would be no Shadow cabinet.

The Belfast Agreement created power-sharing between Unionists and Constitutional Nationalists. It did not provide for adapting to or accommodating extreme Irish Republicanism. As it stands, an Executive is beyond reach when Unionism is forced into agreeing to unworkable programmes and measures for government.

Consequently there arises a consistent consensus contributing to a new but significant mood swing inside Unionism highlighting enough is enough.

Effectively Unionism has decided that the belligerent behaviour and arrogant attitude of Sinn Fein rules them unsuitable as co-facilitators, co-promoters and partners in Government. This is a sensational realisation which cannot be ignored. The unionist expression of ‘turn off’ represents a deep-rooted rejection of the torrent of republican bile vented against the rights and culture of Unionism. No longer should progress be measured on compromises and concessions which apply only to Unionism.

Let me state that just because the wish-list of perfidious Sinn Fein is to dictate terms: That has never and will not be either cause or reason for Unionism to retreat. Those also with experience in negotiating share my opinion that people are looking to leaderships which are brash and brave enough to put this N.I.O. operation behind the eight ball and end the political corruption of denying Unionism a place in Government.

Two pertinent questions require straight answers from the N.I.O.  First: Can an Executive be formed voluntarily without Sinn Fein?  Second: Can the Assembly be recalled on a voluntary participation basis to adopt amended standing orders? I suspect the response to the first question will be evasive. However – given a fair wind for an Advisory Assembly, there may well be manoeuvrability on the second.