Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Why power-sharing can't work

Can a settlement be reached? I was impressed with this article in the Irish News by Patrick Murphy who suggests that power-sharing in NI is an impractical form of government and that NI is ungovernable from within.

Commenting on power-sharing being impractical, Murphy writes:

"A coalition government is challenged by an opposition. Under power-sharing, almost everyone is in a government party (even David Ervine) and there is no formal opposition party. Thus opposition to a specific government policy can come only from within that same government. It may be democracy but not as the rest of the world understands the concept."

Murphy then goes on to state that NI is ungovernable from within based on the fact that the system, rather than promoting a system of power-sharing, in actual fact promotes a system of power-partitioning:

"The problem is reflected in our assembly's hypocrisy. On their first day back members stood for a minute's silence for Michael McIlveen. He was a victim of sectarian tensions between those who wear Celtic shirts and those who wear Rangers shirts (while sporting the name of the same brewery on both).

"Members then signed in and, under the rules of the assembly, they were required to register, not by political party but by their soccer shirts – nationalist, unionist or other. Like all hypocrisy, it was both galling and sad.

"The British government has now officially recognised the partitioning of power by establishing seven new district councils, which will move us from local government to local ghettoes. Having misinterpreted our history, the Good Friday Agreement is now seeking refuge in our geography.

"In the meantime events at Stormont continue. In terms of normal politics they appear to represent little more than the incompetent in pursuit of the impossible."

I must say I find it difficult to argue with the bleak view of events portrayed by Mr Murphy and I feel he makes a compelling argument. Can the North's political parties make the institutions set up under the Good Friday Agreement work, or are those institutions part of the problem in that they consolidate the sectarian politics that plague the North?

I believe that November will arrive without the North's parties reaching a settlement. 'Joint Stewardship', whatever that will involve, seems more and more inevitable as the weeks drag on.

The Irish and British governments are trying to get the North's political parties to unite together but it appears they are are more divided than ever.

Are we witnessing, as Mr Murphy infers, politics "in pursuit of the impossible"?


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