Why MLAs should opt for a plebiscite – By David McNarry

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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.

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  1. One would be tempted to say let’s have Westminster impose a solution to all the things they cannot agree on i.e. impose a language law & move on from that point, The great failing of the GFA was that there was no clause in it mandating it would only operate if both parties sit at Stormont

  2. Gerry Mander on

    Okay, I don’t need a plebiscite so let’s do this thing;

    Devolution be restored? – Yes; HM Government gives a date, and allows the chips to fall where they may; show up and do a deal/get back to work or we shut Stormont down permanently, turn it into a hotel, and fully integrate NI into UK… and both sides wouldn’t like that, for different reasons.

    Mandatory coalition continue? – Hell no, that’s why we’re in this mess to begin with, and I’m talking about 1972 onward; the old Stormont Parliament should/could/would have been reformed not needed replacing wholesale.

    Voluntary coalition be introduced? – If numbers in newly-elected Assembly demand it, then yes, same as any other legislature.

    Majority rule be introduced? – See last question, but yes in a word… you either have democracy or tyranny… and unionists no longer have numbers to dominate; it’s become a healthy competitive system while no-one was paying attention, who woulda thunk it!?

    Direct Rule be introduced? – Hell no, never again, ever… an iniquitous tyrannical system; revolutions have started over less… and lest we forget it’s direct rule via Dublin Castle from 1801 onward that set in motion the bloody course we’ve been on to date.

    Parity legislation with GB be introduced? – See last answer. Also, I find it remarkable that nationalists want GB to legislate in Irish affairs… what was that whole ‘ourselves alone’ mantra about again?

    There be a minorities language act? – Which minority language; Irish, Polish, Cantonese, Ulster Scot, Outer Mongolian? English is the language of the country; of business, of government, of commerce and trade, of media, of everyday people (even the Irish speakers). If you want to speak another language, do it on your own time and dime.

    There be an Irish border backstop after Brexit? – Meh, storm in a teacup, quite frankly… so long as UK can leave at will, then fine, whatever.

    Cross border bodies be removed after Brexit? – No, GFA is still in effect, sadly… until such time it can be repealed, and I live for that day.

    Comfort letters for terrorists be revoked? – Hell yes, if authorities are to pursue elderly military veterans.

    The pursuit of elderly veterans stop? – Hell yes, but amnesty for all sides, draw a line in the sand and finish it; and when people ask about the morality of giving terrorists amnesty, oh please… the West gave Nazis amnesty in the fight against the Soviets, let’s engage in realpolitik here… God will judge all sides for what they did or didn’t do, that’s good enough for me. This legacy nonsense needs to END… and now. Or a Truth and Reconciliation Commission if it helps put it to bed once and for all.

    A Border Poll be ruled out until 2055? – I welcome a border poll asap; nationalism will be crushed, argument over for another generation, bring it on.

    16 year olds vote in future elections? – Local elections, yes; Stormont/Westminster elections, no. 16-year-old’s know nothing about life and the world around them, so shouldn’t get to decide such matters.

    There, quicker and cheaper than a ridiculous, needless, pointless referendum…

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