Belfast Telegraph

UUP, SDLP and Alliance need to convince Northern Ireland they offer an alternative

How Stormont defies the norms of the democratic world

By Samuel Morrison

Once again Stormont has shown us how it defies the norms of the democratic world.

Last week Ulster Unionist, Alliance and SDLP Ministers did something which in any other government would have meant that they would have to resign their cabinet posts when they voted against the budget.

Regardless of what they may say, the UUP and SDLP remain tarnished by the decisions of the Executive for as long as they remain within it.

It is obvious that they are treated as doormats by the DUP and Sinn Fein who can push through whatever they please. It’s time both parties regained some dignity and followed through on the logic of their position on the budget. It’s time they left the Executive.

But we have yet to hear any suggestion from those parties that they will put the clear blue water between themselves and the DUP/Sinn Fein dominated Executive they need to in order to convince people – particularly in an election year – that they offer an alternative.

By way of contrast, TUV leader Jim Allister has earned widespread (if at times begrudging) respect for what he has achieved from the opposition benches.

His probing of Departments on the Assembly floor and by way of written questions has highlighted something of the vast amount of government waste and TUV proposals put forward on topics as diverse as Special Advisers, police pensions and road racing have resulted in meaningful and positive change to legislation.

Tellingly it was also left to TUV to highlight the greatest problem with the budget – the fact that it has massively added to Stormont’s debt.

The debt owed by the Executive now stands at £1.8 billion, a sum which equates to £1,002 for every man, woman and child in Northern Ireland.

By way of contrast the debt ratio of the Scottish Executive stands at around £400 per person.

Bizarrely none of those parties who voted against the budget round the cabinet table highlighted this point.

Sometimes the critics of TUV accuse us of having no thought for future generations when we highlight the flaws of Stormont.

But with this budget it is obvious that the Executive parties are quite prepared to bequeath a legacy of debt to our children.

Of course a Northern Ireland massively indebted plays into their long term agenda of one of the Executive parties.

What better way for Sinn Fein to show that Northern Ireland is a failed political entity than to bankrupt the country? Having spent years trying to cripple the Province by way of bombs in our town centers it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that Republicans when in government don’t seem to care if the Executive can live within its means or not.

Other parties in government with Sinn Fein – particularly the Uncle Toms of the Executive of the UUP, SDLP and Alliance - need to ask themselves if they really want to be linked to such decisions.

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