Friday, 15 April 2011

Would a secret ballot work for the Executive?

I've been thinking recently about what changes could be made to the way Stormont, and the executive in particular operates that could be considered during any programme for government after the election.

Undoubtedly one of the big issues and consequently the most controversial is Health. Michael McGimpsey found himself almost exiled within the executive before the election as a fierce battle over funding left no one in a good light. The problem was that the Health Service needed more money or it needed to reform. McGimpsey, aware of how unpopular the reforms would be, asked for more money. The finance minister, aware there was no money, said reform had to happen first.

Where the problem really arose was that in all likelihood, everyone in the executive knew what had to happen but lacked the political will to effect it. Anyone willing to put their neck on the line and make the call for the required 'bitter pill' would be at the mercy of his executive colleagues and so, understandably, no one does and instead the wrong battle is fought and no one wins.

Would a secret ballot within the executive change that? There are obvious flaws, not least that it would require a strict ministerial code of silence, but are there benefits that outweigh the disadvantages?

Safe in the knowledge that there was no real way to ascertain which way they had voted, would ministers vote as their conscience and belief dictated instead of keeping one eye on public opinion and playing to the crowd?

Of course, the rest of the assembly don't have to follow the executives lead but on a vote where the Executive have already voted unanimously, would it also provide cover by proxy?

I think it's right we know which way our elected reps vote but while we still maintain a system of power sharing, why not give those that have to share out a way of agreeing with each other without committing political suicide?

Thursday, 7 April 2011

My candidature in the Local Elections

This morning I handed in my nomination papers and I am now on the ballot for the Abbey DEA in the Local Elections in North Down. Despite being a relative 'unknown' and without the backing of a party behind me I feel that I have every chance and look forward to the challenge of my first election. Press release and picture of myself, Town Clerk Trevor Polley and my election agent and Father in Law, Tommy Hill below.

Ed Simpson has today confirmed he has entered the race to be elected as a councillor representing the Bangor Abbey district on North Down Borough Council. After confirming his candidature with the Town Clerk, Trevor Polley, Mr Simpson said:

“I have decided to run in these Local Elections because after years of criticising politicians, and politics in general, from the sidelines, I felt that it was time to actually get involved in the process and try to effect change from within.

I think it’s time for a new generation of councillors who are focused on getting the most out of our rates and who have the required skills and experience as opposed to just being rewarded with a council seat for party loyalty.

I want to use my background in driving down costs and waste in business to help our council deliver efficient and effective services so that we can get the most out of our resources and apply them to the areas where they are really needed, such as the Anti-Social Behaviour teams or improving our shared spaces.

By voting for me, the people of North Down can help to ensure that the errors and misjudgements we have all been frustrated by, are consigned to the past and that North Down Borough Council becomes a by word for excellence in service”

Mr Simpson, 31, is married to Louise and has two children, Alex 5 and Poppy 3 and comes from a 15 year career in Business & Finance Administration.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

50:50 - Time was right to end it.

There has been an absolutely heartwarming response from the public following the brutal murder of Ronan Kerr at the weekend. It has been acknowledged by many as almost unprecedented in it's depth of emotion. One of the most frequently mentioned responses is that of a desire amongst young Catholics to now join the PSNI. This is, of course, a brilliant effect and the exact opposite of the murderers intent. What I do not agree with, however, is that the recently ceased policy of 50:50 needs to be reinstated.

50:50 was adopted as one of a range of proposals in order to reform the Police service of the RUC into the PSNI, a service that the Nationalist community could trust and that Northern Ireland as a while could recognise as impartial and fair. Those that think this can only be achieved through a simple policy of positive discrimination are themselves guilty of unjustified prejudice for it is wrong to assume that a person from one particular background is unable to treat those different from themselves fairly.

For those of a Protestant background 50:50 was always a very bitter pill to swallow. It was claimed as unfair and discriminatory. It was. However, there is a strong argument that it was also necessary and if the proof of success is in the pudding, the overwhelming support for the PSNI over the last few days shows that despite it's inherent unfairness 50:50, as part of overall reform, played it's part well.

It is it's success that negates the need for it's return. Young Catholics are now not just undeterred from joining the PSNI but are actually enthusiastic so a tactic designed to to achieve that purpose is redundant. A police service with a true ethos of neutrality and fairness does not need to be strictly representative of the religious make up of society. In my mind, the PSNI represent those values at least as well as, if not better than, any Western professional police force and so recruitment requirements should be strictly on ability to do the job and not on religious affiliation.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Politics biggest threat to peace, not Dissidents.

The awful and devastating news of the murder of a young police officer on Saturday was met by almost complete and utter condemnation by all across the political spectrum of Northern Ireland. For many Unionists, the words of Martin McGuniess will always ring hollow when condemning those who murder Police Officers and with good reason. However, I am personally just thankful that he says them at all; it is a reminder of how drastically different our society is from that of The Troubles.

The political processes of the nineties paved the way for peace and it is only the political process that can wreck that peace. Dissidents can try and use violence to achieve their objectives (as they have and surely will again) but while all citizens can engage in a fair political process they will fail.

People can point to the likes of McGuiness and Adams as examples of terror yielding rewards but they forget that their violence was wrought in a completely different society where a significant portion of citizens felt that they weren't represented in govt and felt they had no other recourse.

The murderers of Constable Kerr, Constable Carroll and the 2 young soldiers at Masserene Barracks can claim no such circumstance as excuse for their crimes.

Unfortunately, there are some who seek to bring back the politics of old and policing of old in an effort to end such terrorism. It didn't work last time and I see no reason why it would this time.

We will win by denying these murderers the justification they crave. Their objective is a united Ireland but their tactics are to divide Northern Ireland. They want soldiers on the streets. They want Orange & Green divided politics and they want no go areas for the PSNI.

The IRA stopped because their justification for violence was removed. The injustices (perceived & real) no longer existed.

Our politicians must do everything they can to keep it that way.