AFTER Slugger highlighted speculation that Peter Hain could nominate the First and Deputy First Ministers last Sunday, in breach of the St Andrews Agreement, the Secretary of State issued a typically curt denial on Tuesday. “The nominations are a bridge to the transitional Assembly… if you don’t cross the first bridge then you have dissolution,” he said. Yes, but nominations to what? Now it’s being reported that “the governments are attempting to construct a formula where instead of a formal nomination Dr Paisley and Mr McGuinness would informally be considered as the prospective ministers to take full office on March 26th next year”. Remember folks, the SoS threatened to pull the plug if this didn’t happen. It’s increasingly difficult to take the November 24 threat seriously any more – Hain won’t even define what ‘success’ on that date would constitute. Is Peter’s plan holding out the prospect of hope, or is it just another Formula Undermining Devolved Government’s Existence – FUDGE?Based on Dublin sources, Gerry Moriarty wrote in the Irish Times:
Faced with this deadlock the governments are seeking to devise a less rigid system where after the Assembly meets on Friday they can say that Dr Paisley and Mr McGuinness, without a full nomination exercise, are considered the effective first minister and deputy first minister designate.
So Paisley and McGuinness will be considered, technically, as the ‘effective’ interim ministers designate?! Isn’t that basically another way of saying: “These are probably the two most likely people to be leading the government, should it ever be restored”, something we’ve known for a few years anyway? And if standing orders are suspended to accomplish this quick fix, shouldn’t Joe Public be entitled to cry foul? Will Pretend Minister Paisley and Deputy Pretend Minister McGuinness be any different from, say, independent MLA Kieran Deeny, in terms of the powers they wield? If this is true, this means we’ll have two imagined leadership positions in a madey-uppy shadow government; the biggest quango since the last fantasy government.