Durkan: DUP has been given a veto

Mark Durkan, speaking after his meeting with Bertie Ahern is still concerned about the apparent veto the DUP appears to have been offered in the latest joint government papers. Will his fears stand up if and when the paper is eventually made public?

From Mark Durkan:

“The SDLP hopes that over the next few days we will see progress. Nobody is more frustrated than us at the slow pace of movement to date. But we have to be honest. We are still concerned that the DUP are getting too much and giving too little.

“We made clear our concerns to the Taoiseach about the lack of progress on North/South and the lack of a timeframe for the devolution of justice.

“Above all, we expressed alarm at the proposal that the DUP would have a veto over the appointment of nationalist ministers. Peter Robinson has been telling people for a year that he has a way of stopping Gerry Kelly from being Justice Minister. This is his way.

“For the first time in our history, the Agreement gave nationalists the right to nominate their own ministers without any veto from unionism. That’s equality. Now it is being diluted at the behest of the DUP.

“Sinn Fein appears not to have recognised this danger. They claim that it does not matter and that nationalists can veto DUP ministers in return. But if nationalists do that, we can be hit with suspension. That’s why this new veto gives the DUP the advantage.

“The SDLP refused to sign up to such a veto when the Agreement was
negotiated in 1998. Indeed, had we agreed to it, there might never have been an Executive. Instead, there would have been endless rows over Martin McGuinness’s appointment as Minister for Education.

“If these proposals would not have worked in 1998, I cannot see how they will work now. They are a recipe for inequality and instability.”

  • J Kelly

    Are the SDLP telling us they want Gerry Kelly Minister for Justice and Policing. Strange times.

  • willowfield

    Wouldn’t the Provos also have a corresponding veto over the appointment of unionist ministers?

  • WindsorRocker

    Ah, The Agreement and nothing but the Agreement……

    Some words come to mind.

    irrelevance, marginalised, SDLP.

    Also, if we are to have true power sharing government rather than power division then this approval vote would ensure that all were happy and comfortable with all the personalities in an executive. It is a nonsense having individuals round a cabinet table in this kind of arrangement if everyone at the table cannot work with everyone else.

  • peteb

    It seems so, Willow. Although, politically, that would be a difficult instrument for SF to wield. Are you saying that such a ‘balance’ would be a good thing?

  • willowfield

    How would it be difficult for them to wield?

  • peteb

    Because if they were to do so, Willow, they would face two immediate problems – without going into the possible reasons SF would proffer for using such a veto.

    1. If the DUP did not change their ministers, the Executive would not be formed and suspension would follow – (If the DUP changed their line-up they’d be accused of bowing to the ‘Provos’).

    2. The use of that veto by SF would validate the use of it by the DUP – and the following tit-for-tat vetoing would, in all likelihood, lead to a suspension.

    SF wielding that veto first would lead to them being blamed for that suspension (or, alternatively, re-run Assembly elections)

    Now, you could argue that those points also apply to the DUP.. but the DUP are less likely to be penalised by the electorate, given their stance to date on who they are prepared to share power with, than SF would be.

  • willowfield

    But surely the same applies to the DUP? If the DUP used its veto, that would also lead to suspension because the Provos would not want to be seen to be bowing to the DUP.

    The Provos wouldn’t be penalised by the electorate either. Probably the opposite. They’d claim it as another example of unionists “not wanting a Fenian about the place” and laugh all the way to the ballot box.

  • peteb

    Here’s a novel idea, Willow… You could actually read the posts in response to your questions.

  • willowfield

    Yeah, I did read it. You said the DUP was less likely to be penalised by the electorate. I refuted that.

    So … how would it be more difficult for the Provos to wield it than the DUP?

  • groucho

    willow, you “rejected” his argument, you didn’t actually refute it.

  • IJP

    The DUP has a veto because it’s the largest party and represents the majority of one of the two ‘sides’ the Agreement is supposed to reconcile. How does the SDLP propose reconciling them without the DUP?

    As it was the SDLP that consistently pursued the idea of ‘two sides’, this is proof that you reap what you sow.

    SF has a veto too, for the same reason. Funny you don’t hear the SDLP complaining about that!

    Indeed, SF always had a veto because of its friends’ extracurricular activities. That’s what the SDLP should be bitter about. But that would require removing the green-tinted spectacles and retiring from the green trench it keeps denying it inhabits…

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    “Now, you could argue that those points also apply to the DUP.. but the DUP are less likely to be penalised by the electorate, given their stance to date on who they are prepared to share power with, than SF would be.”

    If there were tit for tat vetoes, and that
    would happen if the DUP got up to their usual infantile antics. Then the belief that the nationalist electorate would penalise SF shows how detached from reality some people are.

  • cg

    The SDLP inhabits the green trench.
    Why wasn’t I told about this!
    All this time I thought they were “Post-Nationalist” politicians who didn’t dare do anything that would put their careerist policies in jeopardy.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    It is nonsensical to state that SF would be penalised by the electorate in the event of tit for tat vetoes.
    It is the DUPers who have expressly stated they would use this weapon. If SF replied in kind and suspension occurred the DUPers would carry the can in the eyes of the nationalist electorate. Once again the infantile posturing of the DUPers will have been exposed. .

  • willowfield


    willow, you “rejected” his argument, you didn’t actually refute it.

    I think I did refute it. Pat McLarnon seems to agree.

  • peteb

    Pat, the scenario I suggested was one in which SF were the first of the two parties to use that veto.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    I agree with IJP, I have no sympathy for the SDLP. When they and the UUP were at the centre of the negotiating table, they consistently rejected all criticism of this bilateral way of negotiating. They dismissed the smaller parties as irrelevant. Now they’re getting a taste of their own medicine.

    The talks which are taking place have been reduced to a bilateral concession session, which is not about building a sustainable long term settlement through alternative non-sectarian politics, but instead about a process where two large parties extract the best they possibly can for themselves and agree not to shoot at or otherwise abuse each other, and as a handy bonus cementing their own political hegemony. The outcome of this process will be a deal which has been agreed on by two parties who together represent a minority of those who voted in the assembly elections.

    I can’t see how it will survive the extremist fringes in either party, nor a few assembly elections.

  • alex s

    if the Dupes have managed to get a veto past the noses of the Shinners it could prove to be a double edged sword, if the don’t use it they will dammed by their own, if they do the whole edifice will come crashing down and they will be dammed by everyone else

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    firstly SF have never stated that they would use a veto. In fact Gerry Adams is on record as stating that they would welcome voting for the Demon Doc as first minister.
    In the unlikely event they did use a veto on a DUPer, there is absolutely no chance of the nationalist electorate punishing them. The majority of such recognise how far they have come and blame unionists for the delay.
    That may seem absurd from a unionist point of view, but perfectly reasonable from a nationalist standpoint.

  • peteb


    (Leaving aside your attempt to put your preferred label on my ‘viewpoint’.. again)

    I was pointing out that SF wouldn’t use that veto. As for the rejection of the concept of accountability.. well, you go ahead and keep the faith.

  • davidbrew

    usual Stoop cant
    They have a veto on policing-“close 53 stations or we’re off the board” is their only current political project, the latest in a long line of threats to throw the rattle out of the pram