I apologise profusely for asking people to return to the polling stations. There really is no choice. The politicians must be propelled into action and shaken out of their negative lethargy. It is glaringly and despairingly obvious that the talks optics expose the inability of the MLAs to resolve their differences. Experience teaches me to point out that our experienced electorate is the most astute and intelligent about. All it takes is 51% to break the deadlock and give the politicians no escape or excuse from returning to Stormont. I am confident that the people will vote to fix the Assembly and liberate the Belfast Good Friday Agreement – not only is stability on a slippery slope, unless the slide is arrested quickly support for the parties will dissipate and take decades to recover.
It is unfair to convict and then hold the trial. However, the jury had already reached a fairly unanimous verdict. The people gave the MLAs a licence to govern. Not once, not twice but thrice they failed to carry devolution over the line. Now renewing the licence is under close scrutiny. Let’s get it done and dusted for them by showing them all to what the people will consent. The peoples’ primary objective has to be, putting Northern Ireland’s best interests firstly. The public rightly asks why cannot our primary objective be delivered? Why is it not possible to be governed on an agenda coping with normal every day needs? I believe that the people will clearly indicate in a plebiscite a preference for normal government comparable to devolved regions.
A people’s vote is the clincher to confirm the mood of the people. A plebiscite will bring to a succinct end this humiliating fiasco of MLAs receiving salaries for sitting out their disagreements.
The sensitivities of both nationalists and unionists go way beyond reaching a consensus on a single issue before forming a government. The plebiscite is a problem solver with no issue left in abeyance to emerge later to unravel progress. I cannot recall who said “if you don’t learn from history you are condemned to repeat it.” For our families and their families’ sake we must learn that we cannot keep on repeating our history of unresolved division.
In the final analysis should the desired outcome of a plebiscite result in consolidating devolution by installing a system of governance for that purpose, with the parties charged by the people to serve accordingly and fulfil a duty to do so, the peoples’ vote will have taken the politicians across the line. Crucially there cannot be power sharing operating in a bubble waiting on the bubble to burst. Majorities must count and be recognised. Initiating the plebiscite will mean if devolution is restored – setting aside for now the issue of Irish unity in the Assembly.
Acceptance of this will be mighty difficult, a formidable burden and an arduous instruction to accept. There can be no self gratification or triumphalist gesture politics from unionists. The ask is massive and whatever it takes unionists have a duty to welcome with sincere generosity, the nationalist position – being necessary to say so loudly, and let their actions in government deliver the role they wish to play in agreeing lasting programmes of government. Before going to vote the people deserve to know this from both nationalists and unionists.
So what are we after in a plebiscite? Try this list of questions: have a go with your YES or NO answers: to my own amazement I ticked YES to seven of the questions: Preface each question with the word ‘should’.
Devolution be restored?
Mandatory coalition continue?
Voluntary coalition be introduced?
Majority rule be introduced?
Direct Rule be introduced?
Parity legislation with GB be introduced?
There be a minorities language act?.
There be an Irish border backstop after Brexit?
Cross border bodies be removed after Brexit?
Comfort letters for terrorists be revoked?.
The pursuit of elderly veterans stop?
A Border Poll be ruled out until 2055?
16 year olds vote in future elections?
Better still – tell Eamon your plebiscite preference questions.