Public anger at Westminster expenses is justified. But what do taxpayers get for funding Stormont?
In May 1998, people endorsed the Good Friday Agreement — 81% turnout in Northern Ireland, with 71% support. A month later 108 MLAs were on the payroll — plus expenses. Then, for 11 years, the DUP and Sinn Fein prevented the Assembly meeting or permitted it to work for short periods only.
Due to IRA activities and failure to decommission weapons, Stormont initially worked for three short periods before total collapse after the Denis Donaldson spying episode.
Next, the 2003 elections, but DUP and Sinn Fein mutual hostility meant the Assembly wasn't even called to meet. However, MLA salaries and expenses continued.
Following IRA decommissioning and the 2007 elections, with another pause while Sinn Fein decided to support the police, the Chuckle Brothers’ partnership got Stormont meeting again — a whole year of debates, but no legislation. Then, under the Brothers Grimm, and in economic crisis, the Executive didn’t meet for five months.
Apart from agreeing that ‘no nationalist need apply’ for the post of Policing and Justice Minister, there is DUP/Sinn Fein deadlock on just about everything.
Caitriona Ruane and Sammy Wilson ignore teamwork, have no set goals and go on aimless solo runs.
Those angry about Westminster expenses shouldn’t forget the 11 years we sustained Stormont in the failed hope of Sinn Fein and DUP kicking domineering habits and starting to put people before party. Instead they give only self-serving displays of ‘top dog politics’, which turns good people off voting.
Election turnouts have now fallen to about 50%. That suits the extremes, because a combined total of only 30% of the electorate keeps them in ‘top dog’ positions. But change is easy. Turned-off voters can make it happen, provided a handful in each local electoral area turns out to vote again.