Brian has noted that an alternative mechanism of power-sharing has already been described, but Sinn Féin, apparently, are still furious at SDLP leader Mark Durkan’s argument that the current mechanism isn’t conducive to political evolution here. Meanwhile, Liam Clarke suggests that alternatives may be on the agenda of the current DUP/Sinn Féin talks..
A government just can’t be run like this in the long term. In coalitions all over the world, decisions have to be taken quickly and compromises have to be reached every day of the week. Here, planning and economic issues are either pushed to one side or held back as bargaining chips to be produced at the right psychological moment. Nobody expects the scaffolding to be totally dismantled before the next Assembly election. That is not scheduled until 2011, but the DUP will put this issue on the agenda in the current round of discussions. They and Sinn Fein will also seek financial guarantees from the British government to underpin the transfer of powers.
Alliances price for taking the new ministry will also involve the planned decommissioning of the scaffolding. There are differences between the unionist parties, the SDLP and Alliance. For instance, the SDLP wants a Bill of Rights to provide a legal appeal mechanism to protect against abuses of power. They may also argue for a slower and more careful transition than the DUP would like. There will be a complicated trade-off, but if it is to work, any deal will have to be made over the next few weeks. Everyone bar Sinn Fein seem to agree that, while the actual changes wont happen overnight, we should use this moment to start charting a way forward.