The Northern Ireland governing system established 25 years ago is set up as a power-sharing style of government that relies on the cooperation of different social groups. This arrangement has not delivered the normalised, shared, and de-polarised democracy which was promised by political leaders and pro-consociation theoreticians. It has serious flaws, many of which have become apparent over time.
The Northern Ireland government continues to be severely dysfunctional. It has suffered from the collapse of government for 40% of its existence. Indeed, even today it is without a functioning power-sharing government. This follows the collapse of its devolved Assembly last May, due to the latest stalemate between the political parties.
Callum Purves* writes in an opinion piece published in the NZ Herald that the recent proposals for co-governance of New Zealand public services bear striking similarities with the system in Northern Ireland, pointing out that the model as proposed under the Three Waters legislation would face similar problems to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
“Similar proposals to require the introduction of unelected mana whenua representatives on Regional Planning Committees and local councils undermine democratic accountability. It would mean that New Zealanders would not be able to effect meaningful change through elections. Like in Northern Ireland, however people vote would make little difference as the result would always be the same: a perpetual coalition with seats reserved but no ability to hold the representatives filling them to account.”
“The lesson from Northern Ireland is, however well-intentioned, co-government rarely works in practice. It can bring government to a standstill, undermines democratic accountability, and often exacerbates the divisions it is designed to deal with.
If New Zealand wants to avoid similar paralysis, it should think twice before embarking on this path.”
Read Callum’s commentary first published in the NZ Herald - ‘A Lesson From Northern Ireland: Where Co-Government Often Means No Government At All - by clicking HERE
* Callum Purves is the NZ Taxpayers’ Union national campaign manager who has run campaigns for the Conservative Party in Scotland and Northern Ireland and served as a unitary authority councillor in Scotland.
Electoral Reform Society: Why does the Northern Ireland Assembly keep collapsing?
Open Edition Journals: Democracy in Northern Ireland Since the Good Friday Agreement: A Post-Brexit Reappraisal