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Stormont's collapse has a problematic cultural base

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Stormont's collapse has a problematic cultural base

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An overview of Northern Ireland's political impasse presented to CIPFA's conference on Innovation in Northern Ireland in October 2017.

It identifies diverging levels of resilience between the two most senior Unionist and Nationalist parties in Northern Ireland as a key block to a sustainable restart of powersharing democracy.

An overview of Northern Ireland's political impasse presented to CIPFA's conference on Innovation in Northern Ireland in October 2017.

It identifies diverging levels of resilience between the two most senior Unionist and Nationalist parties in Northern Ireland as a key block to a sustainable restart of powersharing democracy.

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Stormont's collapse has a problematic cultural base

  1. 1. Triumph of politics over democracy (Anyone seen our policies?)
  2. 2. So what happened? • Stormont was built for comfort, not speed • Not for good government either • For years all politicians had to work was soundbites and TV studios • Not a department • And NICS grew for 30 years without oversight (a classic Ivory Tower)
  3. 3. Two cultures, two attitudes to government • Research suggests there are two cultures • Performance in government comes second to Ethno-nationalist identity for Nationalist voters • Unless it concerns Unionist politicians • Unionist voters exercise accountability over their politicians. • And they punish politicians who screw up
  4. 4. Two levels of resilience • Activist DUP Ministers in Health, Education and Business • With the “scandals” to prove it • Sinn Fein Ministers left most decisions to departmental processes • Little negative media, but record of poor delivery • Results in contrasting levels of “resilience”
  5. 5. RHI consumes Northern Ireland’s democracy
  6. 6. After consultation the cap on payments is removed RHI established under Arlene Foster 2011 Public Inquiry pending Overrun now £2.2m pa SF/DUP run on a “Fresh Start” platform - May 2016 “Fresh Start” government effectively falls Media storm over £490m figure Cost issue is first reported to Minister Jonny Bell - June 2015 Comptroller and Auditor General Report - June 2016 Whistleblower’s letter OFMdFM - January 2016 Scheme ended February 2016 (CAG alerted) DUP and SF agree Assembly recall at Executive - 14 December Sinn Fein finally call a Public Inquiry - 19th January Hamilton publishes cost cutting plan - 25 January Amended scheme proposed and implemented Sept-Nov 2015 Industry is informed by junior officials that changes are impending - June 2015 SPIKE! in Autumn 2015 Assembly collapses in chaos - 19th December Martin McGuinness resigns - 10 January 2017 Martin informs the press he’s withdrawing consent for FM’s statement - 18 December Jonny Bell interview with Stephen Nolan - 15 December SF refuses to re-nominate a new dFM - 17 January SOS James Brokenshire has no option but to call an election Spotlight documentary highlights CAG report 7th December RHI is under budget for most of 4 years
  7. 7. A tale of two elections • March - Sinn Fein almost win the “Crocodile” election (“How could anyone hate a language?”) • Giving the DUP a near death experience… • June - DUP “luck out” in the UK election (“an appropriate agreement with the Conservatives”) • For the third time of asking • Tables are suddenly turned on Sinn Fein
  8. 8. Non accountability in public office • Department planning and monitoring largely absent • Political gaming can end with Civil Servants carrying the can • Data matters. Data compliant stories matter even more • But “two cultures” ask serious questions about the sustainability of local democracy
  9. 9. Where the DUP finds itself • Performance related voters provide combat conditions for Ministers • Promotion of fresh talent and sidelining of old cultural warriors • Generated resilience/creativity in government (key role in delivering Brexit) • But little common ground upon which to work power-sharing arrangements
  10. 10. Where Sinn Fein finds itself • Voter emphasis on identity has allowed SF escape policy traps • Ministers regularly abandon their desks for “government by negotiation” • Results in low resilience/creativity in government (zero role in resisting Brexit) • “Failure of power-sharing” narrative provides impoverished grounds for re-entry
  11. 11. Is there some kinda way outta here?

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