Northern Ireland

Has the Northern Ireland Assembly become dull?

The artist Noel Murphy who painted the portrait of the first assembly, which was unveiled in 2003
Image caption Artist Noel Murphy painted the portrait of the first assembly, which was unveiled in 2003

The retirement of some of the big names from Stormont politics has led to complaints that the Northern Ireland Assembly has become too dull.

It may be the most stable government in Northern Ireland for a generation, but some believe it is too boring.

In recent years a number of household names have either retired from politics or left Stormont.

These include former DUP leader Ian Paisley, Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams and Nobel peace prize winners John Hume and David Trimble.

At the same time, some of the most colourful speakers of recent times are no longer in the assembly, such as Ulster Unionist John Taylor, the SDLP's Seamus Mallon, the unionist Bob McCartney and the late David Ervine, former leader of the PUP.

The peace talks chairman, former senator George Mitchell, recently brought his son, Andrew, to watch a Stormont debate but left early after the teenager complained of boredom.

Senator Mitchell was delighted with what he saw; he said it proved that normal politics had been established.

So does it matter if politics is dull, as long as it delivers?

Image caption George Mitchell believes normal politics has been established

Monica McWilliams, a former assembly member for the Women's Coalition, believes Stormont should be judged on results rather than personalities.

She said: "I think it's really important to have a new generation of politicians.

"Unfortunately, everyone thinks it's very easy to have a go at politicians. They work night and day, they don't often get the credit for that.

"If you go to any assembly or legislative body in the world, it is boring. That's just the nature of legislative bodies."

The former UK Unionist leader, Bob McCartney, believes the politicians at Stormont could do much better.

He said: "They're dull, boring and second rate.

"They get up and they read a prepared statement that has no connection with what has gone before and even less with what is to come.

"Churchill used to say a good speech was a sustained logical argument, presented in the most attractive language possible.

'Sunlight'

"Now if you use that as your criteria for colour, there's very little colour in the assembly."

But is the lack of colour more to do with the stability of politics than the people involved?

Was the era of Paisley, Adams and Hume really a more charismatic political age?

The artist Noel Murphy who painted the portrait of the first assembly, which was unveiled in 2003, reckons the passage of time can colour views of the past.

He said: "The eyes of the world were on us. It's a great place when you're in the sunlight.

"Clinton was a friend and Mandela. But when the eyes of the world go away, being in the shadows is a much colder place.

"The personalities weren't necessarily charismatic, the events were.

"Today it's bland because the events are, not necessarily the characters."

Not everyone will agree with the County Antrim artist.

Draw your own conclusions.