Opinion

The DUP will not go into Stormont and SF will not go into Westminster. We are the only people in the world who vote for politicians not to represent us – Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy is an Irish News columnist and former director of Belfast Institute for Further and Higher Education.

Former First Minister Paul Givan and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill pictured in 2021, before the DUP collapsed of the power-sharing executive in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol
Former First Minister Paul Givan and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill pictured in 2021, before the DUP collapsed of the power-sharing executive in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol Former First Minister Paul Givan and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill pictured in 2021, before the DUP collapsed of the power-sharing executive in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol

Dear President Putin

THE US claims that Russia is trying to influence the outcome of elections around the world by using mainstream and social media to undermine public trust in democracy.

If this is true you should be ashamed of yourself. Just as the Skibbereen Eagle newspaper said it was “keeping an eye on” the Czar in 1898, we want to warn you to watch your step.

Now that we have given you a good telling-off, is there any chance you might do us a favour? Could you possibly interfere in our elections? It is not that we want someone to subvert democracy, we would just like our electoral system interfered with so we can have democracy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin Russian President Vladimir Putin

You see, since the state was founded in 1921, we have never had a government which was not obsessed with flags, constitutional posturing and sectarianism.

In fairness, the sectarianism in the new Stormont is more evenly distributed than the sectarianism in the old one, although today’s version is more legally enshrined.

However, the result is that we have 700,000 people waiting for health treatment, 45,000 waiting for housing and an estimated 80,000 people relying on foodbanks.

Read more:

  • Patrick Murphy: Religious sectarianism largely ended with the Good Friday Agreement – which replaced it with political sectarianism
  • Patrick Murphy: Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil are more alike than they would admit
  • David McCann: Northern Ireland isn't working – non-voters hold the power to shake up our political system

In most democracies, a government with that record would be voted out of office immediately. However, we can’t vote our lot out because our system of government is based on a compulsory coalition of the biggest (sectarian) parties. In the interests of democracy, could you subvert that system for us?

No matter what happens, Sinn Féin and the DUP will always be returned to power. Indeed the worse the parties perform, the greater their electoral support. (It’s called Irish democracy.)

Both parties have collapsed Stormont when they felt like it and no one can do anything about it. Ironically that system of government was engineered by the US and Britain, which suggests that they have done more to influence electoral outcomes here than Russia has.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, pictured here with other world leaders at the G8 summit held at the Lough Erne Resort in Co Fermanagh in 2013, has been accused of attempting to subvert democracy by interfering in elections
Russian President Vladimir Putin, pictured here with other world leaders at the G8 summit held at the Lough Erne Resort in Co Fermanagh in 2013, has been accused of attempting to subvert democracy by interfering in elections Russian President Vladimir Putin, pictured here with other world leaders at the G8 summit held at the Lough Erne Resort in Co Fermanagh in 2013, has been accused of attempting to subvert democracy by interfering in elections

The DUP will not go into Stormont and SF will not go into Westminster. We are the only people in the world who vote for politicians not to represent us.

The two main parties have decimated public services here, yet neither acknowledges responsibility. Last week SF promised heaven on earth if elected in the south, but no one at the cheering ard fheis pointed out that the party is jointly responsible for the 700,000 on the north’s NHS waiting list.

Instead we were told that the Orange state has gone. However, they did not point out that although nationalists were second-class citizens here, from 1945 they enjoyed a first-class NHS, a well-funded education system and one of the best welfare models in the world.

Of course, unionists opposed the introduction of the welfare state, but it came here despite them. Its decline was triggered by the Good Friday Agreement which emphasised constitutional arrangements over social and economic issues.

That led to the rise of the sectarian elite in the form of SF and the DUP and the accompanying decimation of public services.

Read more:

  • Deirdre Heenan: Long hospital waiting lists are symptom of a system in chaos
  • There's no plan to deal with the mess the DUP has created - Brian Feeney
  • Newton Emerson: Competence or culture war? The DUP's dilemma

We are now at the point where our system of government is a risk to many people’s living standards and the main threat to our health is a pandemic of arguments about a united Ireland. The populist solution is to restore Stormont, the very source of all our problems.

The recent local government elections were fought not on poverty, hunger or homelessness, but on the archaic issue of which of the two largest parties would win the most votes. We have not yet progressed to the stage of the Novgorod Republic in 15th century Russia, which elected city officials on their performance in office.

We realise, Mr Putin, that you would have an impossible task in interfering with our electoral process, because if there were an election tomorrow, the two main parties which have created this chaos would still win easily.

So don’t worry if you are unable to subvert democracy here. Our politicians are doing that themselves.