The prospect of another assembly election just months after the last has me far from excited this despite my known love of elections. If anything the very idea has me worried. As I said in my last blog the likelihood of another election solving any issue in the interim period or delivering anything other than the same sh!t on a different shovel is highly unlikely. And lets just say another election is called and Arlene again becomes First Minister with her having topped the poll last time around and with unionist voters known for their tactical voting then what then? Another election? Direct rule?
Those of you reading this blog will often see a reference from me to the politics of deflection. My worry is that in the absence of a Stormont Assembly things that require local scrutiny may slip through the back door of Westminster. Things such as the Bedroom tax.
Another important issue is the need for legislation to deal with the past, given the urgency around funding for inquests. Funding which is being withheld on an all or nothing basis despite the British Governments legal obligation to deal with the past.
In the last attempt to deal with the past the related legislation was to bypass Stormont and go straight to Westminster despite the subsequent denials of the politician.
In an opinion piece from Ann Cadwallader of the Pat Finucane Centre (Human Rights Organisation) which was published in the Irish News on 28 February 2015 Ms Cadwallader had this to say in respect of the Stormont House Agreement;
“It is heartening that party leaders are meeting to discuss the SHA every Monday indicating a certain level of urgency.”
Despite the further concerns outlined in the article from Ann Cadwallader the above information backed up what victims and campaigners were later demonised for highlighting.
When elements of the the proposed legislation were eventually leaked to the public by the press only then did the politicians raise issue with the proposals. This despite the main parties having the document long before it reached the press. A leak which proved that the legislation was loaded in favour of the state in that it gave carte blanche to the Secretary of State via the national security card, and as such offered little to victims seeking truth and justice.
Having voiced my related suspicions to my husband a few days ago I decided to let my thoughts percolate that was until I read the statement published yesterday, January 10 2017, from Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly.
In his statement Mr Kelly who is the party spokesperson on legacy said:
With the the urgency outlined in respect of money for legacy inquests and keeping in mind that Sinn Fein are the driving force behind the proposed election which will see the assembly dissolve and return no sooner than March, then what must be asked of Mr Kelly in respect of his last comment which states: "they need to implement the Stormont House agreed legacy mechanisms in a human rights compliant manner," is, who are the 'they'?
Is there another plan to hand this over to Westminster (as was the case with welfare reform) in the absence of an assembly and in the absence of a robust consultation with all victims, as opposed to a piece meal tick box exercise? Particularly with the DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson suggesting that the north is facing a prolonged period of direct rule. In contrast Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams has said that a return to direct rule is not an option.
The fact is that when Adams is saying that direct rule is not an option can he guarantee the formation of an executive after the election? Has he a crystal ball? By the same token, is Jeffrey (who could do a nifty sideline as a Daniel O'Donnell impersonator) being all doom and gloom because to put it bluntly 'fear sells'.
Outside of outstanding issues in this election there are fewer seats to be gained, and this is something that everyone should be concerned about. This will no doubt impact on the smaller parties who make up the opposition both official and otherwise, and will therefore make Stormont less inclusive than it already is. As much as I think Stormont and the majority of those who roam it's marble corridors are useless, if the smaller parties do take a knock then there will be absolutely nothing and no one to hold the DUP & Sinn Fein to account. And if you take it on the basis of votes, then this is sadly democracy.
Now on the subject of democracy, other spectres looming are Brexit and austerity. In his resignation letter former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness states that the British Government are imposing austerity & brexit against the wishes and best interests of the people here. Now Martin, before you get ahead of yourself, I would remind you that Sinn fein, yes your party, voted to hand the powers of welfare reform to the Tories, so before you accuse them don't forget your own role in that. And as for Brexit, well as someone who voted to remain I was shocked at the outcome, but unfortunately that's democracy. And if Martin casts his mind back to 1998 and the Good Friday Agreement, well that cemented the North into the UK. We might not like the Brexit outcome, but can we pick and choose when to support democracy? If so more people in my house voted against the current regime in Stormont than for it, so does this mean we should be able to secede from a democratic vote?
For my own part, should an election arise, I will be voting on a realistic and tactical basis to send the main parties a clear message and would encourage others to do the same. And, outside of that I'm exploring the options on how I can secede from the North and set up the Peoples Democratic Republic of my house.