Monday, May 15, 2006

NI Briefing: 'Shadow Assembly', by any other name!

Today Northern Ireland's 108 assembly members took their seats in Stormont for the first time since October 2002. The MLA's were elected over two and a half years ago, and for 40 of them this will be the first time they have taken their seats.

The session began with a minutes silence for Michael McIlveen, the 15 year old boy, murdered in Ballymena.

The MLA's then listened to a letter from Peter Hain, read by the new Speaker Eileen Bell. Ms Bell, an MLA for the Alliance Party, also made clear her intention to refrain from making any political statements in her new role.

Assembly members signed the register, stating whether they were Unionist, Nationalist or other.

No other business was conducted, and most members are expected to attend a rather wet garden party, hosted by Peter Hain at Hillsborough Castle. The dull skies added to the mood of foreboding, no-one quite knows if this assembly will be ready for devolution by the November deadline. Some believe this assembly will be no more than a 'talking shop' and will lend itself to political grandstanding, rather than constructive debate.

Ian Paisley says he will refused to accept Gerry Adam's nomination as First Minister, and Sinn Fein, are reluctant to be involved in any discussions which are not directly aimed at restoring devolved power. The Assembly is due to debate the NI economy tomorrow and it is not known if Mr Adam's and his party will contribute to this debate.

Since all previous negotiations to find political compromise have been conducted in private through intermediataries, it seems somewhat unlikely that the local parties will take the initiative to find a way forward. The onus is on Sinn Fein and the DUP to lead this process over the next few months. The question is can such polarised political entities ever be reconciled and if they can't, what is the alternative?

6 Comments:

Anonymous David Cather said...

The timescale between now and November is much to short. We have only 6 weeks now before the summer recess, when the assembly returns in the autumn a few weeks before the deadline the government will think it can use time pressure to push us into some sort of hotch-potch deal. The sky isn't going to fall in on 25th November.

5/15/2006 3:04 pm  
Anonymous Keith said...

"The sky isn't going to fall in on 25th November"

but it'll probably stop raining money... on our overworked MLAs

5/15/2006 9:31 pm  
Anonymous David Cather said...

That hurts a party with 9 MPs less than anyone else.

5/15/2006 10:56 pm  
Anonymous Keith said...

...it hurts ALL parties, and for good reason too.

5/16/2006 11:02 am  
Anonymous David Cather said...

Andrew either you've got a secret admirer or the site's been spammed, if it's the latter then turning word verification on stops it :)

5/18/2006 9:58 am  
Anonymous Andrew said...

David

Unfortunately it wasn't an admirer but indeed a Spammer.

Therefore we have turned on the 'Word Verification' setting as you advise.

Many thanks,

Andrew

5/18/2006 12:16 pm  

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