Why we're a long way off from normal democracy

Allison Morris

THERE'S a lot of talk about working class unionist disengagement from politics and, after the events of the last seven days, who could honestly blame them.

While we're a long way - possibly an inquiry away - from finding out exactly what went on when the so-called 'bad bank' Nama sold off a portfolio of over 850 properties at a knock down cost, we do know it stinks all the way to Stormont.

The sums involved are eye watering; £4.5 billion worth of property sold at a deflated rate. American property giants Cerberus paid £1.3 billion, a blooming bargain.

Who Cerberus met, when they met them, and where the £7 million slice of property pie that had been stashed in the Isle of Man was going, remains to be seen.

Thanks to the diligence of my Irish News colleagues we know for sure the First Minister, the appointed leader of Northern Ireland, met with Cerberus chairman Dan Quayle last March. The meeting took place without the knowledge of Deputy First minister Martin McGuinness.

Ian Coulter, the man who Tughans solicitors have already admitted made a hasty exit from their company after he was found to have diverted £7 million to an off shore account, was also at the meeting.

It is a series of events that stinks like a five day old fish supper, and yet the details are only leaking out because of the diligence of a few journalists and the online antics of a lone maverick.

The players themselves remaining uncharacteristically silent.

What we were told at the time was that the property buy off was a good deal for Northern Ireland.

What we do now know with a degree of certainty is that it was not a good deal for the taxpayer. It was a very good deal for certain people, people who must be very, very nervous.

The allegations being made at this stage might be enough to bring down the government in any normal democracy.

A member of the DUP has even labelled the property deal a "dirty scheme".

But we're not and never have been a normal functioning democracy.

The mandatory 'you scratch my back I'll turn a blind eye to your inadequacies' coalition we have at Stormont barely passes as a democracy.

And so back to working class loyalist disengagement from politics.

How can you expect a single mother living in sub-standard rented accommodation in east Belfast, or a young man from Ballymena with limited education and nothing to look forward to but a zero hour contract, to feel they're are adequately represented by the current unionist leadership.

While they are worried about the electric meter needing fed two days before payday, the people they've asked to represent them are reportedly living playboy lifestyles and talking in financial figures that represent the GNP of a small nation.

When anyone does try to question their actions the threat of legal action looms large.

If fellow assembly members attempt to hold them to account a hastily arranged 'petition of concern' soon puts a stop to any real politics taking place.

Meanwhile issues like budget cuts and welfare reform are kicked down the road and the decent people who came out and gave their vote to the DUP, who answered a call to arms in east Belfast to remove Alliance's Naomi Long for Gavin Robinson - who it should be pointed out is no relation to Peter Robinson - have been done a massive disservice.

The DUP has many decent hard working councillors and MLAs who live and work among the communities they represent.

However, they also have a leadership that is failing the electorate, with an ethos of top down management heavily reliant arrangements that compromise key players and impact on public confidence.

It's time for the other parties to back away from a barely functioning coalition, to ensure openness and accountability and ensure public confidence in the institutions is restored.


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