In fairness, Durkan did not suggest the new edifice was yet sufficiently “sealed and settled”. Some reports have suggested he certainly does not foresee such developments in the life of the current Assembly. Nevertheless, the SDLP leader revived a debate as old as the agreement itself – and his words were music to the ears of DUP politicians in particular, who have always detested the compulsory coalition demanded by the agreement and who still nurture hopes of eventually moving to some form of “voluntary” coalition arrangement.
Frustration with the current model is understandable, not least in the context of the current standoff between the DUP and Sinn Féin (though it should be observed that London and Dublin had to hold SDLP and Ulster Unionist hands for long enough after the 1998 accord). Nobody pretends to like the unionist/nationalist “designation” requirement, its “arguably sectarian or sectional undertones” plainly reflecting the worst of Northern Ireland’s divided past.
Meanwhile Damian O’Loan at the OurKingdom blog poses the question.
The question is whether Northern Ireland is better served by the present designation system, in both the short- and long-term, or by a high threshold without it.
It’s a [long-term] conversation worth having.