My qualified no: the explanation Part 1

On a thread about the DUP St. Andrew’s consultation I mentioned I had submitted a qualified No and was asked why. Here is the first of six parts of an article explaining why.How did I arrive at my decision?

I did not arrive at my negative position from a knee jerk response. My initial impressions were effected by the media emphasis on what the DUP had gained and the body language of the press conference than my quick scanning of the document.

My concerns were not raised either by Jim Allister’s critique or the UUP’s Jekyll and Hyde response to the document. It was reading the St Andrew’s Agreement (SAA) in detail a few more times, asking DUP contacts to flesh out details for me, debate with friends and family and the press coverage of what was and wasn‘t in the side deals/letters.

Why did I submit a ‘qualified’ No?

Simple, there is a section of the Unionist community that would reject any notion of a deal that involves power-sharing with Sinn Fein and will say No to SAA. I do not hold such views. It was the contents and omissions of SAA that led me to opt for a negative response. Neither am I doom laden in my assessment of the document, it has some value for the Unionist position for example the accountability mechanisms.

Living with concerns to get a deal

My objections do not include mandatory coalition, policing and justice powers or the abolition of the 50:50 rule. I agree fully with the criticisms of mandatory coalition and thought it was worth a try to get rid of it. However, it fitted in the category of a hope rather than expectation.

I was actually impressed the DUP had managed to maintain the Comprehensive Agreement timetable for the devolution of policing and justice powers. However, I would hold the minority view (in Unionist circles) that those powers should be devolved speedily (with appropriate safeguards). An incoming Executive will need to tackle the growth in criminal gangs and issues like anti-social behaviour. If a new Executive wants to be seen to tackle such issues then part of that fight will involve legislation. I do not believe waiting for space in the Westminster calendar is responsive enough to address those needs.

I find 50:50 highly objectionable but will live with a guillotine on its use. Also if the employment trends in a number of public bodies continue (plus the Protestant dominated generation that is about to retire from a range of public bodies), it’s not impossible that Unionism will be seeking to use the PSNI precedent in the longer-term.

Also I was not expecting the “perfect” deal, I knew any agreement would involve things I did not like or disagreed with.

(I will be unable to respond to comments because I have important domestic matters to attend on Thursday followed by a romantic week-end. I will reply as best i can upon my return. The remaining pieces are timed to appear at 9.00am and 2.00 pm each day.)