Who stands where?

This statement from the DUP struck me as being very odd. Power sharing was a failure before 2003, but is now a rousing success under the DUP, and it is “sour grapes” for the UUP to even think about forming an opposition. At the end of the statement, Trevor Clarke says that the current power sharing arrangement is “delivering for the community in Northern Ireland”.

Does this indicate that the DUP now expressly support mandatory coalition? (UPDATE – I missed that Peter Weir reckons that the UUP considering opposition “throws into doubt their commitment to making devolution work for the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland”)

Pete has already noted that the DUP and Sinn Fein jumped effortlessly to the same hymn sheet in the early part of this week over the question of an official opposition. The debate at this stage seems to be gathering pace, and the response of the Chuckle Coalition to the debate…….well it’s interesting. What has been equally interesting, is the development of a distinct impression of two competing coalitions within the Executive, a development that, if it continues, will raise interesting questions in the days ahead, but has real potential to develop into a positive solution to the d’Hondt problem.

  • BonarLaw

    There is no positive solution to the d’Hondt problem.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Perhaps you misunderstand me. The problem is that it is used.

  • Nevin

    Michael, why do you think there was silence from the junior partners in the Executive when the DUP duo apparently broke Section 2.4(i) of the Ministerial Code?

  • Amused

    Speaking of DUP ministers, David Gordon in todays Belfast Telegraph had a great story about the ongoing Causeway saga.

    Relating to the good old Land Registry, apparently they received a clumsily filled in application to change the ownership of the home that Paisley Jnr claims he bought from Mrs Sweeney to Mr Paisley last week. What a twit!

  • Sir Herbert Mercer

    Another DUP nobody mouthing off again

  • Bla

    Tell you what Michael. If its so dreadful to have a mandatory coalition, let the UUP pull out of the executive and form an opposition. Instead of chirping from inside. Your position is utterly hypocritical and indefensible.

    Good luck persuading Reg and Michael.

  • BonarLaw


    I think you will find that the Land Registry issue is one that affects more home buyers than just Paisley Jnr.

    I also seriously doubt that Jnr had anything to do with filing any application to the LR. That would be his solicitors.

    Pretty weak post all round.

  • Michael Shilliday
  • Sir Herbert Mercer


    how dare anyone ever mention the DUP’s corruption

  • Nevin

    Amused, the Paisleys won’t be amused when they read the yarn about Paisley snr failed to spot the bathroom suite in the piggery.

  • Bla

    So what? When will the UUP be leaving the executive? You are trying to ride 2 horses at the same time. Also why cheer Ritchie to the rafters when eights months previous you were angling to jump into bed with the UVF? Totally cynical opportunistic grasping approach.

  • Bla

    Oh and by the way, 600 at the UUP conference. That is a base falsehood.

  • BonarLaw

    Sir Herbert

    corrution in public life needs to be highlighted and denounced regardless of who is responsible.

    Now kindly highlight the corruption you complain about and we will denounce it accordingly. Who is corrupt and what corrupt act have they committed?

  • GavBelfast


    Far be it from me to defend the UUP, but at least they didn’t run away from holding a conference this autumn, modest turnout or not.

  • Alex Kane


    A simple matter of clarification re your last post.

    I didn’t say there were 600 people at the conference. I said that about 600 in total had been involved at the EGM on Friday and conference on Saturday. Given that some sceptics were saying that the party would be lucky to get 100 at either meeting, it wasn’t a bad turnout at all.

    Best wishes,


  • Nevin

    Item #10, Bonar. Give us your considered opinion on a politician lobbying on behalf of an apparently long time friend for two replacement dwellings on a site that had one dwelling – and with rates bills for two dwellings.

  • Bla


    Your wording was designed to create an impression of numbers which didn’t in fact exist. If there were more than 200 in the hall I would be very surprised. Anyway, when are the UUP going to leave the eecutive? Stop riding two horses.

  • fair_deal


    If the UUP were going down this road the natural time was pre-election but the UUP chose the complete opposite path by being the most enthusiastic for devolution.

    Post-election second thoughts by some (in fact some raised it before the votes had even finished being counted). Bouncing about from one end of the debate to the other in short spaces of time is not sensible.

    If a party does choose to go into opposition one thing they must realise is that it has to be a coherent opposition rather than scatter gun. This still seems to be largely absent in the UUP. We’ll see if the rule changes do anything to improve coherency in future but still not there yet.

    “Does this indicate that the DUP now expressly support mandatory coalition?”

    In a word, No. The DUP position on mandatory coalition and opposition was outlined.


    “We succeeded in making significant improvements through the negotiations leading to devolution but there is still more to do.

    “While I understand that it may be necessary to build confidence in the process before more radical changes can be delivered I hope that change will not be too long delayed.

    “A four party mandatory coalition with no effective opposition is not in the best interests of decision making in Northern Ireland.”

    As for the present rows it isn’t about new structures with a formal opposition rather whether there can be an internal opposition (or ‘competing coalitions’) in the Executive acting against collective responsibility.

    As for Peter Weir’s comments he is simply reminding you of the commitment in the 2007 UUP manifesto that:
    “We are the only Party prepared
    to pledge to you, the voters, that we will take our seats in government and govern for
    the good of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.”

  • Nevin

    “whether there can be an internal opposition (or ‘competing coalitions’) in the Executive acting against collective responsibility.”

    fd, can you confirm that the DUP ministers didn’t take their deliberations on the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre to the Executive?

  • BonarLaw


    stupid, needlessly evasive and arrogant but not corrupt or criminal. If anyone has any evidence to the contrary I will be pleased to revise my opinion.

  • Nevin

    Bonar, we’re referring to an application for two replacement dwellings where there was one, an application that the politician lobbied for.

  • steve48

    To be fair Fair-deal a he said she said debate on manifesto’s isn’t likely to favour the DUP.

    The difficulty for UUP is that a voluntary coalition does exist in the executive and the assembly between DUP-SF. In a unionist v nationalist split the UUP would be happy to play its part but things have moved on. Issues such as the DUP and SF ministers holding pre-executive meetings to agree the outcomes in the absence of the UUP and SDLP ministers is only one example.

    In the Assembly it would also appear that not only do ministers from DUP and SF get the standard notification of ministerial questions they also for both parties get sight of the supplementary in order to prepare for it. While a nice friendly way to get on its hardly a battle a day.

  • BonarLaw


    I know what you are referring to. Put up your allegation or shut up.

  • DC


    The DUP are clearly ruffled over the thought of an Executive full of both them and SF only.

    Leaving D’Hondt concerns to the side, or given today’s date Da’Haunt, the very thought of such an occurrence would damage the credibility of the DUP and it might even come back to haunt them at the next election.

    Damage them simply because the Party has built itself upon an anti-SF ticket and how many times recently have we heard Peter Robinson moving to negate any dubious Executive decisions by saying ‘the UUP were there too what did they do’.

    In a more moderate, perhaps temperate, Executive such a stance of moving into opposition so soon would not draw the same newsworthiness, but because the DUP has built its house on shipping off blame to others, constructing their raison d’etre around being anti-SF, this simple two-party Executive would harm the DUP. Even if it things went rather smoothly its detractors could easily win an argument.

    Also neither DUP-SF have any experience in governing at this level.

    Moving into opposition is the easy thing, it’s being constructive and effective when there. That’s where most people’s doubts rest and that’s because you need functioning alliances, doubt the UUP would be good at this give-and-take style of coalition opposition.

    Still too many a rabble-rouser too close to where they shouldn’t be.

  • Nevin

    Bonar, would you have supported such an application? Do you smell corruption? I’m assuming you’re not stupid, evasive or arrogant.

  • BonarLaw


    stop being a prick-tease about this. My view on Jnr is above at post 20. You seem to be hinting at something much more serious. Let’s see the colour of your money.

  • Nevin

    Bonar, you need to go back to #10. I was referring to Paisley snr (First Minister), not Paisley jnr – though the latter does get a mention.

    “Amused, the Paisleys won’t be amused when they read the yarn about Paisley snr failed to spot the bathroom suite in the piggery.”

  • Nevin

    [aside]Bloggers – the time clock needs to be put back an hour[/aside]

  • fair_deal


    “fd, can you confirm that the DUP ministers didn’t take their deliberations on the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre to the Executive?”

    I am not in possession of inter-ministerial communications for any department nor Executive minutes so I don’t know what was or wasn’t communicated between departments on this issue.

    AFAIK the Causeway is not a final decision and thus did not need to go to the Executive.


    “he said she said debate on manifesto’s”

    Argument over manifesto’s are the bog standard fare of politics. I have always found the text of DUP manifesto’s actually light on explicit commitments.

    The UUP (and SDLP) seemed to have worked on the assumption that a re-established executive would operate on the same shambolic basis as the last one(s). It wasn’t and hasn’t.

    I’d be happy enough to see an opposition introduced to Stormont and I am a firmer beliver that the best thing for Unionism is two competitive parties.

    However, the UUP pretty much sold the pass on that for an Assembly term by the devolution and nothing but stance they took in the election, plus the loss of a Unionist majority executive won’t be a great selling point either – it could matter a few times ie on academic selection.

    There is still too much strategic drift and incoherency in the UUP to make them competitive. However, there are a few years to election time so address both and see if the new internal changes help in that.

  • David

    The only way for a UUP opposition to work is with a similar decision from the SDLP. In these circumstances the opposition would have the chance of forming an alternative government. It could also lead to the abandonment of the ludicrous d’Hondt rule.

  • Nevin

    Just thought I’d ask, fd.

    “Duty to bring matters to the attention of the
    executive Committee
    2.4 Any matter which:-
    (i) cuts across the responsibilities of two or more Ministers;”

    Dodds made a decision and Foster told us she was minded to give the visitor centre project to someone she claims to ‘know nothing about’.

    Perhaps the ‘opposition’ will tell us if they were involved in this somewhat bizarre scenario.

  • Nevin

    “a re-established executive would operate on the same shambolic basis as the last one(s”

    You seem to have the inside track on the DUP, fd. Can you tell us if the party has any plans to rotate its ministers as it did in the previous Executive – like a game of musical chairs?

    “Mr Robinson said he had enjoyed the job but criticised “the set up of government in Northern Ireland which in an executive has people who are inextricably linked to the IRA”. BBC 5 July 2000. And the PIRA AC hasn’t gone away AFAIK so I suppose Robinson is (still) one of those people.

  • Turgon

    All the debate about oppositions is extremely interesting.

    Alex Kane’s piece in the Newsletter is an excellently argued and logical set of suggestions.

    The comments from him, David and others about both the SDLP and UUP having to go into opposition together are also logical. Whilst it would be possible for the UUP to go into solo opposiiton it seems difficult and at the moment there are few pro-opposition noises coming from the SDLP.

    The UUP in opposition would certainly present the DUP with difficulties. Their close relationship with SF would be highlighted and the unionist electorate would see a definite alternative to them.

    There would remain, however, very significant problems for the UUP such as lack of adequate numbers of talented spokespersons, low profile of some of the talented ones with possibly little media exposure. The lack of a formal position of opposition would cause them significant problems. They would need to develop a set of coherent alternative policies which is not necessarily easy especially if they are in some sort of semi coalition with the SDLP.

    Also as fair_deal shows they would be vunerable to DUP attacks from a number of different directions. They could be accussed of damaging the unionist position and they might under certain circumstances end the unionist majority on the executive. They would be under great scrutiny regarding decisions such as a unity candidate for South Belfast and FST. They could legitimately be asked whether they would share power with SF if they were the main unionist party and if so how different would they actually be in government.

    A further problem is that the electorate will not necessarily vote out the SF / DUP axis for an SDLP / UUP one. Any of the combinations is possible and as such a simple alternative of changing DUP / SF for UUP / SDLP is not an especially likely outcome.

    All these problems urge caution, something Empey probably has too much of anyway and the simple fact is that he and McGimpsey would have to voluntarily leave government and power for a very uncertain wilderness. I doubt either will be keen to do so. Hence, excellent idea as opposition etc. is unless the UUP are willing to take an enormous leap into the dark; I suspect it would require a complete renegotiation of the agreement to achieve.

  • slug

    Isn’t the opposition idea one to develop *while in office*?

    There will be reviews of arrangements -and elections- where it will be useful to have developed a coherent thought through position on how opposition might work.

    Need to develop arguments about where the present arrangements can be improved on for the good of public policy; these arguments should be based on experience of failings in the current arrangements. All of this requires the current arrangements to run a few years to allow a body of empirical evidence to emerge on where things need to be fixed.

  • DC

    “I’d be happy enough to see an opposition introduced to Stormont and I am a firmer beliver that the best thing for Unionism is two competitive parties.”

    Let the DUP-SF bring in the devolution of policing and justice together on their own terms, given that it was their baby and large chunk of the St Andrews intergovernmental stitch up. It will be very interesting to watch such parties bringing that badboy together.

    In an opposition government, all three parties should align, stand back and sing off the same hymn sheet whenever clear failings arise, which they will.

    In terms of the “wasn’t and hasn’t”, this is partly to do with the disarray that UUP and SDLP are currently in, some positive signs of re-forming are coming through, but more work clearly needs to be done and quickly in terms of structuring an opposition.

    That said, if a coherent grouping could form then already issues such as the Causeway, victim’s commissioner, reform of education, stadium, credit-crunch economy, RPA-efficiencies, should all remain a serious and significant challenge for those in this current Executive and would offer exploitation.

    Anway, the sorry sight of the DUP-SF sitting around the table together with no nice buffers in the form of SDLP and UUP members to shite on if needs be would have of its on merit serious repercussions. And indeed both responses from the DUP-SF as regards to the potential for an opposition forming is hardly coming through as politically robust more like lecturing, the smell of fear is out there given the almost insurmountable reform challenges lying ahead.

    To be fair, FD, there is a great challenge in forming and operating a functioning opposition that is not dissimilar to some of the Executive challenges lying ahead, but only some.

    Finally, watching Paisley deliver at the dispatch box as FM must be an encouragement, as he comes across poor and lacking in conviction on certain issues, which must spur on any potential opposition.

  • The Raven

    Turgon wrote: “There would remain, however, very significant problems for the UUP [SNIP] with possibly little media exposure.”

    Just as an aside, are there not guidelines for the media in terms of presenting pieces/arguments from an “opposition”? I ask this question because I genuinely don’t know.

    In fact, would be an “opposition” not virtually guarantee the UUP far more coverage than the respective “government” parties, by virtue of there being two of them…?

    Just a thought.

  • Turgon

    The Raven,

    Not a bad thought at all. In GB politics I think (though am not sure) you are correct; but again we do not have a government / opposition set up here at the moment. As it stands Alliance are an opposition of sorts and do not get 50%. Neither do the prodiban; so I am unsure whether or not the UUP would gain in terms of media attention. Interesting thought though.

  • The Raven

    Turgon, regardless of oppositions or not, perhaps this is something that needs raised? In the interests of a fair representation of opinion, more than anything else?

    Mind you, with the continued love-in between the media and this assembly, and the lack of real hard hitting investigation of…well…just about anything, perhaps the last thing the local channels want is the hard work of giving a diverse political opinion…

  • veritas

    Stay in office -leak like a sieve all the things you dont like to the press.pick the battleground of your choosing -water charges,11+,whatever -just sit back and pick them off.that’s what I’d do.

  • veritas

    …and blame robinson for not having adequate funds for your department and soak the credit for any good that you can do.

  • fair_deal


    “You seem to have the inside track on the DUP, fd.”

    I won’t go too far as that.

    “Can you tell us if the party has any plans to rotate its ministers as it did in the previous Executive – like a game of musical chairs?”

    IIRC when the present tranche were appointed some mention was made that they may do that but I have heard nothing about it since.