DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED MUSICAL CHAIRS.
“What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone”
Mick Hall • 19 March 2007
The London and Dublin broadsheets have been full of articles which claimed the elections for the Stormont Assembly, which took place in the north of Ireland on the 7th March, were a victory for the Democratic process. Some even went as far as to claim that the DUP and SF, having emerged from the polls as the two largest parties within the Assembly, ‘had seen off any threat from extremists’. (The Guardian proclaimed in a headline, “Voters rebuff extremists and give hope for Stormont Assembly” [9.3.07.])
Those of us who have followed the antics of the leaders of these two organizations, Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley may shudder just a little at this, for in their past practice they have both shown scant regard for Democratic niceties, accountability or practice. Indeed if they had, the six counties may not have descended into what can only described as an in-terminal nightmare of death and destruction, which lasted for over four decades. Whilst neither men can be blamed for creating the fault-line that has been inherent within the northern Statelet since its inception, they both shoulder a great responsibility for violently driving the sectarian wedge into the shifting plates, and thus splintering the two communities asunder.
Whilst the end of para-military violence is to be welcomed, any Stormont Administration which emerges out of the recent election will be far short of being a democratic government —as most who live in Western Democracies understand the term— and to pretend otherwise is to display an absolute contempt for the Irish people. What we will have is an elected sectarian dictatorship that came into being due to the British Government and their Unionist acolytes’ desire to end the PIRA insurgency whilst maintaining the status quo. They have achieved this by covering, with a charade of democratic foliage, the right of the Unionist minority within Ireland to have a permanent veto on the political reunification of the Irish Nation. That the SF leadership were enticed into supporting this by the offer of a Ministerial limo and the trappings of a departmental brief is bewildering —not only for Mr Adams’ Republican critics, but also his friends, although many of the latter have now convinced themselves that when the time is right, Mr Adams will pull a rabbit out of his hat which will still make it possible for reunification to take place by 2016, as he once predicted with such certainty. I fear they are in for a bitter disappointment. In reality all the SF Ministries will contain will be a giant rubber stamp with a crown on its head, and a cash point from which the SF ‘ministers’ will be allowed to finance a small number of pork barreled projects to keep the boyos quiet in their retirement.
The whole point about a democratic system is when one tires of the government of the day, you vote them out. Not in the north of Ireland it seems, for there the best you can hope for is a form of Ministerial musical chairs. If the electorate so decides, true, the First Minister can be replaced if their party is no longer the lead Unionist party, but it is only to be a shuffling of the Ministerial pack, for were he to be dismissed by the electorate, a politician of a similar religious hue and political persuasion would take his place. (*It is always a he with the Unionists.) Far from the departing First Minister being on their way to the opposition benches; if he so wished, he would simply take up another Ministerial seat further down the political food chain.
There will be no opposition within the Stormont Assembly, which, for example, can pass a motion of no confidence; even if there were it would be pointless, for the same people from the same parties would be nominated for ministerial office all over again. True, a few MLAs from the minority Alliance and Green Party, plus an independent member of the Assembly have had the common decency to come together in the hope of performing the task of some sort of opposition, a duty which in any functioning democracy worthy of the name the main opposition party would have filled, but 9 out of 108 MLA’s will never be able to hold the executive to account.
From the UK State’s point of view, things could not have turned out better. They will have in place an administration in the north of Ireland which has all the trappings of a Democracy for the gullible to be enticed by, but it will in reality have none of the powers of such an institution for the reasons I have given, plus the fact that London will control the purse strings. Good or bad, whatever this mockney Stormont administration does, all the main northern political parties will be accountable, for ‘cabinet’ responsibility will prevail. Thus if the DUP ministers enact some paltry piece of legislation the Shinners disagree with, they can hardly object and remain in the Stormont administration. The Shinners, having spent such energies in getting into the Stormont system, are not going to expose its short comings and bring it down around their ears (even if the GFA allowed them to, which it doesn’t). So they will sit fast in their ministerial seats, neutered as the British government always intended, whilst the real show goes on in London, with an odd encore from the Dublin players.
Peace is good, but peace without honour can never be the end game.
First published on The Blanket [http://lark.phoblacht.net/MH270307.html]