“Suppose the party leader doesn’t want to remove the minister..”

With Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, talking of the need for negotiations between the parties in the Executive to resolve the deadlock over post-primary education, in the Belfast Telegraph Malachi O’Doherty raises an interesting point about the semi-detached nature of the relationship between the president of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The separation of the roles of party leader and Deputy First Minister in Sinn Fein creates the potential for every crisis on the Executive to compromise the authority of the party leader or the Deputy First Minister. And the party must be aware of that vulnerability, must ultimately want what every other government has got, the power for the removal and appointment of ministers to reside within the Executive.

How would Gordon Brown or Brian Cowan like it if senior party officials could veto their ministerial appointments? They would not accept it. Theoretically, Gerry Adams can even remove Martin McGuinness. It is inconceviable that he would try. And a further uneasy thought occurs to anyone reflecting on this problem. Surely, Gerry Adams’s political career is entirely oppositional and subversive. So can he be trusted outside the Executive to make decisions which are in the best interests of the Executive?