The UUP leader and NI Executive Minister for Employment and Learning, Reg Empey, has issued a statement in response to the “pantomime” performance of the Deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, and the “thinly veiled threats” from the Finance Minister, the DUP’s Peter Robinson – and, no doubt, also in response to the criticism of the Health Minister. From the UUP leader’s statement
“We are currently engaged in a process where we are discussing drafts – I repeat drafts – of the programme for government and budget. It is an opportunity for MLAs and the general public to openly debate and offer alternative viewpoints. The threats from certain Ministers to attempt to stifle debate by threatening the collapse of the government if these matters are not agreed to their liking reeks of throwing all the toys out of the pram and is a dagger to the heart of the democratic process. MLAs and parties must have the right to discuss and debate these draft proposals.”
“We are now beginning to see signs of control freakery being exhibited. The UUP regrets Mr Robinson’s thinly veiled threats in his closing remarks yesterday. Mr Robinson implies that there is a four Party coalition at Stormont. The reality is much different. A coalition, by definition, is where the parties of government come together to agree an agenda for implementation. At no time since the 8th May have the leaders of the parties represented in the Executive met to discuss, let alone agree an agenda. The confidentiality requirement means Ministers are inhibited from sharing fully with their parties emerging proposals on policy.
“Ulster Unionist Party Ministers have approached their portfolios in a genuine attempt to deliver the best possible service to the people of Northern Ireland and we believe strongly that the only way a coalition can work is by consensus between the parties. This is not the way things are going. On the one hand DUP and Sinn Fein Ministers want to be fireproofed and blameless on sensitive and contentious issues such as health cuts and water charges by insisting on unanimity, while on the other they are getting into a two party cabal and deciding what they want and how to do it. This is a fundamental inconsistency that needs to be addressed. The UUP are currently exploring options of how to address it.”