The Welfare reform bill had a MAJORITY in the Assembly:
- All unionists and the alliance supported the bill.
- The Nationalists however (SDLP and SF) Raised a petition of concern - which meant that a cross community vote would be required. This means that over 50% of unionists AND nationalists have to vote on it - as the nationalists have opposed it it means the bill is dead.
It is a brilliant example of a couple of things for any essay:
- ASSEMBLY/ LEGISLATION/ PETITION OF CONCERN QUESTIONS: How dysfunctional the Assembly is. They cannot pass a crucial bill - which will have massive consequences for NI's budget. It is an example of them not providing any form of collective responsibility and of playing politics with huge issues. Supporters will argue that the nationalists have played a blinder preventing the Tory cuts from happening in a very welfare dependent part of the UK. Critics will point out that the rejection is not solving anything but actually pushing NI to the brink - imposing massive fines and effectively endangering public services. Critics of the Assembly will see this as another failure to tackle a big issue - They can agree about plastic bags and taxi reform and sunbeds but when it really comes down to the really hard bit of politics - making tough decisions they are impotent
- SINN FEIN PARTY QUESTION: SF cannot be seen to have any part in the welfare reform - as their vote is very much based on left wing and in large parts still working class support. Their key areas such as West Belfast have one of the strongest reliance on welfare in the UK. ALSO SF have one eye on the South- They will be fighting an election there soon and they really hope to boost their seats from the current 14 - they are fighting this on an anti austerity front - which is proving very popular - They cannot be seen to be involved in austerity in the north! This is why their U turn on the issue was not a big surprise. Critics argue that SF are glorious at playing the party of opposition but just as in Greece - when the opposition becomes the government they have to take tough decisions.
- IDEOLOGICAL SPLIT !!!! The interesting thing from welfare reform is that there is now an IDEOLOGICAL split in NI which has overshadowed ORANGE and GREEN rivalries !! The Unionists are definitely right wing in line with the conservatives - talking about living within their means etc - The nationalists are left wing defending welfare rights and attacking the 'Tories'
- PETITION OF CONCERN: Finally it shows the abuse of the petition of concern AGAIN!!! It was intended initially to be used to defend human rights in NI against abuse - instead it has developed into a political and sometimes sectarian tool to grind matters to a halt and sometimes lead to political stalemate and inaction. THE PETITION OF CONCERN HAS BECOME A REAL CAUSE OF CONCERN