In case you haven’t noticed, the assembly meeting up at Stormont isn’t the Northern Ireland Assembly established by the Good Friday Agreement. It’s ‘the assembly’ as the school-marmy speaker keeps telling her class.
Oh yes, the speaker. At the first gathering Bob McCartney asked why she was calling herself the speaker when she hadn’t been elected by the assembly. Cos our proconsul appointed me speaker, that’s why, so there.
It’s only after a few meetings that you fully realise what a humiliating sham the whole performance is. Our proconsul appoints the
speaker. He decides when the assembly meets. He decides what it can debate - not only the range of topics but he actually determines the order of business. He draws up the order paper. He decides if and when Scotland’s first minister is coming over to address the assembly and indeed who else will speak to them and when and how. The assembly of course can make no laws or take any decisions.
Even if by some miracle Ian Paisley had accepted Gerry Adams’s nomination on Monday and an executive had been elected, it wouldn’t have been to this assembly because this assembly is a virtual assembly.
If by November 24 an executive is elected then the Northern Ireland Assembly will be restored and this assembly will vanish into the ether. Geddit? No? Nor do some of the virtual assembly members who seem quite mystified by the maze our proconsul has lured them into.
None more than the SDLP who appear intending to provide credibility for an assembly they correctly described as a ‘kindergarten’. Do they not realise it is a lollipop for unionists who love any flummery which makes them believe they’ve got a parliament? They love having a ‘speaker’. They love playing at all this nonsense of, ‘Will my honourable friend agree with me that it is raining incessantly because Sinn Féin do not take their seats at Westminster?’ It’s the sort of stuff that would disgrace sixth-formers holding a mock parliament in some council chamber. Sinn Féin have got it absolutely right. They will leave the unionists to play with their toys. Here are elected representatives from this part of Ireland called together by the British administration only on days decided by the British proconsul, representatives who are not allowed to elect their own presiding officer, not allowed to determine what they want to debate or even the order of debate and who can be sent home on a date of the proconsul’s choosing. Now really. Why would any self-respecting elected representative be party to such a humiliating exercise?
Yet the SDLP, after first saying they wouldn’t, have now decided to cooperate with the British administration to act as bit players while unionists preen themselves.
It’s a re-run of the 1996 Forum in the old Co-op building that the SDLP made the mistake of
attending. Luckily for them Drumcree exploded and gave them a pretext for beating a hasty retreat. How long will it take them to realise this current pantomime is designed solely for unionists’ benefit?
On the other hand, if they didn’t see the abyss opening during the so-called debate on the
economy last week perhaps they never will. The DUP and UUP were in their element. They simply ignored the SDLP whose members forlornly
pleaded to be taken seriously.
For some reason SDLP members talk about trying to restore the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement as if this ‘assembly’ could in some way advance that aim. The plain fact is that the only way you will see movement towards restoring the GFA is when ‘the assembly’ is consigned to history. ‘The assembly’ has to be dissolved before the Northern Ireland Assembly is restored. So enhancing ‘the assembly’ in any way, especially by dignifying unionist-inspired debates cannot aid the restoration of the GFA’s institutions. On the contrary, paying lip service to ‘the assembly’ distracts attention from the main business of ‘the assembly’ which even the British legislation setting it up says is to elect an executive.
Leaving the unionists talking to each other in this hologram on the hill is the best way to expose that their only aim is to avoid sharing power.