At the moment the DUP are launching their manifesto in Belfast. You can find it here online. We’ll come back to it when the Panel’s remarks are online for a more in depth analysis of the content, but the first thing that strikes you is the contrast in detail with the UUP’s policy rich output. It’s absolutely clear that for the DUP this is about selling the contents of deal. Although some of the proffered content is more solid than others:Take the section marked: RECTIFYING FUNDAMENTAL FLAWS IN THE BELFAST AGREEMENT
Terrorists in Government: We have made it clear no party linked to those involved in paramilitary or criminal activity will be in an Executive. Indeed, to be a Minister it will be necessary to take a pledge of office to support the police.
This is number one, both because it is the most important clause, and the most substantial. The IRA have decommissioned, and Sinn Fein are in the throws of recognising the PSNI. It’s a strong sell!
Unaccountable Executive: Under the changes we demanded, all significant Ministerial decisions will have to be agreed by the Executive, the Assembly can refer matters back to the Executive for decision, and there is a new statutory duty in the Ministerial Code to act in accordance with decisions of the Assembly.
Hmm.. now these changes have taken place. There is some nervousness within Unionism at the liberalising of the choice of First and Deputy First Ministers. Yet on the face of it that could be seen as a liberalising measure. There is also a sense that some of this may have arisen from the review process naturally.
Inability to deliver coherent Government: All Ministers will be bound by decisions of the Executive allowing a more coherent administration.Ministers will no longer be able to act alone, in narrow party interests.
Or in other words, others will not be able to do what the DUP once did to the UUP and the other pro Belfast Agreement parties. A deft pulling up of the ladder, but a logic move towards better governance, one would hope. Though it calls into question what use any individual manifesto will be when the PR policy cattle market is subject to the views of four separate party focuses.
Now we get to the puffy end of the seven. It’s not clear, to me at least, that these last four would not have happened with the restoration of the Assembly:
Unaccountable all-Ireland implementation bodies: There will be a review of all-Ireland implementation bodies. All decisions concerning these bodies will be for the Executive to take.
NSMC – stand alone all-Ireland Government: Under the new law all NSMC decisions will be for the Executive and subject to unionist control.
Freelance unaccountable North South co-operation: Under the new law all North South co-operation will be accountable to the Executive where the DUP have a veto.
Imbalance between north/south and east/west relationships: Because of the new accountability arrangements, the DUP can ensure in office that there is balance in these arrangements.