Assembly On The brink ... Scheme Could Stop Meltdown

John Coulter with his weekly newspaper opinion piece from last week.  John Coulter is a columnist with the Irish Daily Star.

Get the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies along with the Dail to foot the welfare reform bill at Stormont – and save the Northern Assembly from meltdown tomorrow.

And in return, Brit Prime Minister Dandy Dave Cameron gives more tax-raising powers to Scotland and Wales, and increases the clout of the cross-border bodies in Ireland.

Ever since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the people of Ireland – and especially the North – have been subjected to constant brinkmanship from the Stormont parties.

The prophets of doom take us to the very edge of chaos and collapse, only for a last-minute magic solution.

None of the Stormont parties want to implement the austerity which approving welfare reform will unleash.

At the same time, refusal will spark a Stormont election, which neither the DUP or Shinners want, and possibly even the total shutting of the Assembly with all powers going back to London.

The Shinners don’t want another Northern poll this year as their primary focus is getting into power in Leinster House.

Robbo’s DUP equally don’t want a poll given the resurgence in the rival UUP under Mickey Nesbitt.

With all the sabre-rattling, no one seems to have picked up on a wee announcement by the new DUP health boss at Stormont, Simon Hamilton.

He quietly unveiled that his new health department has reached a deal in principle with the nationalist-run Scottish Parliament that payments to the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in the North will be administered through the Scottish ILF infrastructure it is setting up.

While this will only affect about 600 Northern citizens, Unionists sources are hinting this will be a dry run for the Scottish National Party to have a bigger say in helping Stormont pay its way.

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP boss, the Welsh nationalists of Plaid Cymru and a few folks On The Hill may have been listening to my solution of a Celtic Alliance involving Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

There will also be a pay-off from the English royal heir, the new bonnie Prince Charlie and his missus, touring Ireland last week.

The historic handshake between Prince Charles and Shinner boss Gerry Adams could well have been the grip which sealed the deal on another era of Anglo-Irish relations.

It’s a trial run for bigger things to come. If the SNP can make a good job of running the North’s ILP, the nationalist reward for Scotland will be increased tax-raising powers.

If the Scots get these, so will the Welsh. It could also prove to be a tempting carrot for any future English regional assemblies.

The deal is simple – you help the Irish out of their cash crisis at Stormont, and you get more control over you own finances. This means Scottish and Welsh Home Rule as well as English regional devolution by the back door.

It also prevents a dangerous political vacuum emerging in Ireland which could be filled either by dissident republicans or militant loyalists.

So what does the Dail get out of this? Okay, Leinster House doesn’t have the dosh to pump into the Stormont welfare reform rescue plan.

But the Brits could squeeze a few million quid here and there to increase funding to the cross-border bodies.

Dave may even be able to screw some extra cash out of the European Union before the crunch 2017 In/Out referendum to boost the powers of the British Irish institutions.

If the ILF works, I wonder what other schemes the Tories have to keep Stormont in business?

Watch this space!

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