Principled in opposition

In the Observer, Henry McDonald argues that Mark Durkan’s suggestion that the SDLP could “enter the Assembly as part of the official opposition to a DUP/Sinn Fein government” would be an inspired move for Northern Irish democracy.

It’s an analysis that is, unsurprisingly, far from Brian Feeney’s remarks on the same suggestion – “How stupid can they get?” – and much in line with my own thoughts on the matter, see comments field here

  • George

    It might be an inspired move if the SDLP and the UUP both work together constructively in opposition and both try create an alternative to what they would then be calling the ruling SF-DUP coalition.

    At least it would break the sectarian circle, which would be a whole new world.

  • abucs

    Doesn’t really make a great deal of sense.
    Assuming that ‘the stand’ is that they’ll take their seats when they are the dominant Nationalist Party, Sinn Fein will also take their seats and then ‘the stand’ is finished and all that has happened is that the SDLP have given their ministries away for so many years.
    In practical terms (barring the deputy First minister) don’t Sinn Fein and the SDLP have 2 ministries each in the suspended assembly ? Why not take them now instead of so many years down the track.
    The whole article though does show up some of the deficeincies in the Agreement – there is no structured opposition to the Government and the voters don’t know which parties will take which ministries before they vote.

  • Tony Ward

    Come on Mark who do you think you are kidding? Your threat to go into opposition will hardly strike fear into the hearts of the other parties. Remember your party is now the smallest of the 4 main parties and continuing to decline.
    Is it not the case that the real reason for seeking the sanctuary of opposition is because of the mess you made out of the Reform and Reinvestment Initiative. Clearly linked to your driving that process was the introduction of water charges. Whilst a British minister has announced the introduction of water charges to the public what he was in fact doing was announcing what we will all have to pay under the Durkan Tax.

  • Warm Storage

    “Assuming that ‘the stand’ is that they’ll take their seats when they are the dominant Nationalist Party”??????

  • Belfast Gonzo

    So after all their huffing and puffing about being opposed to a voluntary coalition, the SDLP and UUP are now prepared to form a voluntary opposition…


  • peteb

    If the Alliance party got their act together they could probably join that official opposition, Gonzo.

    Unless they’d rather be part of a DUP/SF coalition government? ;o)

  • Warm Storage


    Any opposition can’t be “official”. The agreement/NI Act 1998 doesn’t permit it, I believe. It’d be “in opposition” as opposed to “the Opposition”.

    And it’d be the UUP and SDLP joining Alliance in this opposition, not the other way round. Alliance and a handful of others were the only ones who at least attempted to keep the Executive in check the last time round.

    On the other hand, Alliance, if it wished to do so, and assuming both the UUP and SDLP go into opposition, would be part of any Government with the DUP and Sinn F

  • Christopher Stalford


    “Assuming that ‘the stand’ is that they’ll take their seats when they are the dominant Nationalist Party”??????

    I have to agree – a preposterous idea!

  • yer_man

    Just perusing the DUP webiste and I see Nigel Dodds has commented on the absurdity of the situation and makes an interesting point.

    “The public will find it somewhat bemusing that both the SDLP and the UUP were more than happy to partner unreconstructed and unrepentant terrorist representatives in government whenever the IRA was armed and active. Sinn Fein cannot be allowed into the government of Northern Ireland again unless the IRA decommission fully and they end their paramilitary and criminal activity. It is ironic, therefore, that under those circumstances, the SDLP and the Ulster Unionist Party seem to be entertaining the idea of staying out of government. It is logic turned on its head.”

    Particularly for the UUP the contrast is stark to say the least. So eager were Trimble, Reg and the rest to get their bums on Ministerial leather seats that they hopped on into Government without a single bullet being handed in. They then made use of a couple of unseen stunts to hang on in there right till the bitter end, carefully ignoring the ongoing terrorist violence, gun smuggling etc, or making the odd dissaproving noise about how terrible it was to be partners in Government with those nasty terrorists.

    Now zoom forward a few years. There will be no Executive in Northern Ireland formed now unless there is an end to terrorism, full decommissioning etc, including all IRA activity ended. After sitting in Government with an armed an active Sinn Fein/IRA, the UUP then decides that it would be far to unpalatable to sit in Government with a Sinn Fein who had demonstrably shown a committment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

    It really is extrodinary that the children who pass themselves off as the UUP and SDLP are having this contest as to who can throw their rattle furthrest from the pram. If we can have ‘their’ agreement with unaccounable Ministers and ongoing terrorism then we certainly cant have one which would actually bring accountability into the system and have forced SF to get rid of the army and give democracy a go.

    You couldnt make this kind of stuff up if you tried.

  • yer_man

    Of course, the second line of the last paragraph should have read “if we cant have ‘their’ agreement”.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I never noticed this level of co-operation between the UUP and SDLP when they occupied the top positions in the Assembly.

    Now suddenly, they are best buddies!

    Given that they both (and I think the SDLP can take the lion’s share of the credit here) did their best to ensure that the form of government we had in the last Assembly had an opposition that could be no more than token, it will be interesting to see how they themselves cope.

    Personally, I don’t buy it.

    …but I’d take it anyway.