Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Why Ulster now wants to have new assembley

Today, the Belfast Telegraph publishes the second of a four-part series from an opinion oll carried out by the Queen's University/Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the survey's author, Dr Colin Irwin, examines support for a local assembley.

Today, the Belfast Telegraph publishes the second of a four-part series from an opinion oll carried out by the Queen's University/Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the survey's author, Dr Colin Irwin, examines support for a local assembley.

Executive to be only from parties committed to non-violence

CATHOLICS would prefer for the appointments in an assembly to be assigned equally between the two main traditions and for voting by weighted majority or 'sufficient consensus' _ which requires a majority from both of the main traditions.

Protestants would prefer for appointments to be made in proportion to the representation of each party in the assembly and for voting to be by simple majority.

The clear compromise on these points is for appointments to the executive, the chairs and membership of committees to be proportional to the representation of each party in the assembly and for voting to be by weighted majority or 'sufficient consensus'.

Additionally a majority from both communities believe the members of the executive should only come from parties committed to principles of democracy and non-violence and that they should be voted in by the members of the assembly.

With regards to the leadership in an assembly, a majority of both Catholics and Protestants find it quite 'Acceptable' that there should be a leader and deputy leader representing the two main traditions and they also consider it 'Desirable' to be able to directly vote for these leaders.

The reform of local bodies is favoured by both traditions

WHEN it comes to local government reform a majority of both Catholics and Protestants find such a prospect quite 'Acceptable' and would be willing to have a new assembly decide how this should be done.

For example there could be fewer councils _ at present there are 26 _ with more powers.

But reforms could go further. A majority from both communities are willing to accept the introduction of new laws to ensure that the views of representatives from the whole community are taken into account.

They also accept that political and administrative responsibilities are shared, that power can not be abused by one group over another, and that independent committees or courts of arbitrators are established to resolve problems that become intractable.

Indeed most of these reforms are considered to be 'Desirable' by both Protestants and Catholics.


Outlooks on assembly surprising
CONCLUSION:
Given the reservations nationalist politicians have about 'A return to Stormont' and the strong desire on the part of unionist politicians for a new regional assembly the results of this part of the survey are slightly surprising.

Perhaps Protestants are not as enthusiastic about the prospects of establishing another layer of government as their political leaders seem to think and perhaps Catholics desire for accountable government is stronger than their political leaders have judged to be the case.

Providing adequate safeguards can be put in place to prevent abuse of power then an assembly could be a welcome part of an overall settlement package in both communities.

THE research was independently funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and has been undertaken by Dr Colin Irwin of the Institute of Irish Studies at the Queen's University of Belfast in collaboration with representatives of the 10 political parties elected to the Stormont Talks.

The public opinion survey work was conducted by Market Research Northern Ireland between December 4 and 22 to produce 1,002 completed questionnaires that represented a cross section of the adult population of Northern Ireland in terms of age, gender, social class, religious affiliation and geographical area.



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