Belfast Telegraph

How can First Minister Peter Robinson remain in office when he describes Stormont as 'not fit for purpose'?

By Samuel Morrison

Peter Robinson's comments in Tuesday's Belfast Telegraph were odd. On the most basic level it's incredible that someone who leads an administration (albeit in Mr Robinson’s case jointly) could describe it as "not fit for purpose" and remain in office.

It’s all the stranger when one considers that this is the same Peter Robinson who regularly berated the media for failing to report what he considered to be the successes of Stormont.

Has the DUP finally realised that an undemocratic Stormont is unworkable?

If so, it is a most welcome development.

As the TUV has repeatedly argued, the core issue when it comes to the dysfunctionality of Northern Ireland’s government is not welfare reform, but the flaw whereby an executive is formed.

Nowhere else in the democratic world are the public denied the right to vote a party out of government. Nowhere else in the democratic world are the public denied the right to have an opposition to hold their government to account. Nowhere else in the democratic world are legislators required to designate as one of “us” or one of “them” before they can take up their seats.

A system which places no requirement upon parties to come together with a shared plan and common vision before executive posts are divided between them is a system which contains within it the seeds of its own destruction. Until that issue is addressed Northern Ireland will stagger from one crisis to the next. With each of those crises more people will get fed up with politics as they will, correctly, conclude that Stormont is incapable of delivery.

But does Mr Robinson really want to see the change which is necessary to break the deadlock and restore public confidence in devolution?

The events of Monday in the Assembly suggest not. In spite of the fact that MLAs voted to support the findings of the Social Development Committee against Nelson McCausland by a margin of 57 to 36, the motion was not carried because the DUP tabled a petition of concern – a document signed by no fewer than 30 MLAs.

It’s hard to imagine a more anti-democratic tool yet it is one which the Democratic Unionist Party has used to protect the DSD Minister. Those were hardly the actions of a party committed to the fundamental democratic reform of Stormont. Rather it seems the party is quite prepared to use the undemocratic devices built into the Belfast Agreement they once opposed to further their own narrow party political ends. The fact that doing so further undermines public confidence is, apparently, of no consequence.

We cannot go on with a failed Stormont where, contrary to claims after St Andrews, ministers are completely unaccountable and good government cannot be delivered. We need to see a democratic Stormont and a genuine sharing of power between parties which have an agreed program to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland, both nationalist and unionist.

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