Murphy refuses to rule out voluntary coalition…

THE DUP continues to call for a voluntary coalition (‘VC’). Noteably, it excludes the UUP from its proposal (who would back the plan), but includes the SDLP (opposed to the idea, for now) and Alliance (who first proposed it this time last year). Given that the Secretary of State implicitly ruled out VC in his Commons speech today, there still seems to be a non-committal hint of a suggestion that it might still be explored. Expect the SDLP’s profile to rise if the Government believes there is the potential to woo it.PA reports: And, in a clear warning to republicans, he [Murphy] insisted the government had neither ruled out nor in the idea of a voluntary coalition of unionists and nationalists at Stormont.

“A lot will depend on the discussions that I have with political parties over the next couple of weeks,” he told Opposition Northern Ireland spokesman David Liddington.

“Whatever happens, we cannot establish an executive which does not have either unionist or nationalist representation on it.”

[Question: should Murphy not mean “…BOTH unionist AND nationalist representation…”?]

The DUP, whose met Mr Blair in Downing Street tonight, believe a voluntary coalition could be formed with the cross-community Alliance Party and the nationalist SDLP.

However, SDLP leader Mark Durkan would have to be convinced that nationalist voters would not penalise his party for freezing Sinn Fein out of government.

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson asked: “Why is democracy in Northern Ireland to be held back because of gunmen and gangsters?

“Surely the time has come to make it very clear that politics moves on and it moves on without them?”