'It seems Northern Ireland like North Korea will be denied right to change government'
Published 27/11/2013 | 12:37
Some weeks ago I wrote about the need of an opposition at Stormont. That begs the question of how we are going to achieve one, a topic I will return to in the future.
However, before approaching that issue I think it only sensible to outline why Northern Ireland rather than moving toward a more normal democracy is slipping further away from it.
In 2005 the DUP said that mandatory coalition under any system was “out of the question”. Yet on Saturday Peter Robinson’s speech didn’t contain a single reference to reforming Stormont never mind doing way with a system which, if implemented across the UK, would have had seen both the Conservative and Labour parties in power in every parliament since the First World War.
That is profoundly undemocratic and while many ordinary voters may not know what d'Hondt is there is a growing realisation that the old joke it doesn’t matter who you vote for the government gets in takes on a whole new meaning in Northern Ireland.
Far from moving away from such a situation the Local Government Bill currently going through Stormont will impose d'Hondt on councils.
Additionally a recent report by the Assembly and Executive Review Committee – which was backed by all the main parties – barely gave a nod to the democratic deficit in Northern Ireland.
Rather than bringing us towards a shared society the political setup in Stormont institutionalises sectarianism. MLAs must designate as unionist or nationalists and those who choose not to find their votes don’t count on many key issues.
Consider too the Northern Ireland Bill currently going through Westminster. Again there is no attempt to provide voters with the right to remove a party from government and little pressure from the Northern Ireland parties represented in the Commons to change that.
So it seems that for the time being people in Northern Ireland, like in North Korea, will be denied the right to change their government.