Earlier this month, Robinson said:
It is time to move on with those who are committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic politics in both word and deed. A mandatory inclusive executive, however formed, involving those who are criminal godfathers will never gain our support. Democrats should not be asked to tarry for those unable or unwilling to pursue entirely democratic politics.
We do not intend to engage in the media game of what-ifery. The media ask us, what if, at some later stage, they do become involved in exclusively democratic politics, will you join them in government? To respond to that question requires those being asked to contemplate an hypothesis which is not simply suspect and implausible but quite frankly requires the respondent to suspend intellect, judgement and logic. We say come back and ask us if ever, in this generation or the next, Sinn Fein can tangibly convince the community, over an extensive and sustained period, that all the republican movements illegal activity is ended. For our part we do not suppose they will.
Robinson’s reported remark about no government with Sinn Fein “in this generation or the next” has been somewhat spun, containing as it does, a big “if” just in front of it. It’s also a rhetorical question, but regardless, the DUP preference is for a government that does not contain Sinn Fein while it remains associated with the IRA.
That’s now the UUP position, or at least David Burnside’s.
He said after the election the two unionist parties and the Alliance Party should come together to plan a future for the province “uncontaminated” by the republican movement.
“If the SDLP cannot see sense and form a voluntary coalition Executive at Stormont let us make direct rule more accountable,” he told a press conference at the Dunadry Hotel.
Actually, for once, he’s in agreement with his leader, who said (not that anyone paid a blind bit of notice):
“We have called for the d’Hondt formula that automatically gives parties ministerial appointments to be repealed.
“In that event, we would seek to form a voluntary coalition with the SDLP.
“That would give voters the chance to form a cross community administration leaving out the extremists, if they want it and vote for it.”
But was Mr Burnside peeking over the shoulder of his South Antrim Westminster competitor David Ford, who recently wrote:
The creation of a voluntary coalition of the willing would allow those parties that wish to move ahead and restore democratic and accountable power-sharing government to do so. They would not be held hostage by any party blocking progress, whether it be through political intransigence or association with continued paramilitary and criminal activity.
Nevertheless, the SDLP has stuck to its guns. I get the feeling that with such a statement, Durkan no longer wants it to be an election issue, as it forces him to defend standing alongside Sinn Fein:
“At the heart of the Hume/Adams approach was a reach to inclusion.
“The SDLP has championed and stood by that commitment.
“I put inclusion into the Agreement. I have stood strong against every trick and tactic to take it out.
“That`s why, in response to (DUP Deputy Leader) Peter Robinson`s calls now for voluntary coalition, I say: it`s not on the agenda. It`s just not on.
“Peter, you might have been able to negotiate a new British exclusion law and a version of voluntary coalition with Sinn Fein in your December deal but you will never get the SDLP to break the Agreement and you know it.”
No-one would seriously have expected much different going into an election, but with such disagreement on a fundamental, it looks as though it will be some time after May 5 before a government can be formed.
(PS: Anyone know the story with the SDLP website? It’s still down.)