Owen Paterson one of the leading members of the Ulster Conservative and Unionist New Force; known hereafter on this thread as Fifth Force (to prove a large leap away from the Third Force, or possibly to sound like Fifth Column) has suggested that the Fifth force would like to negotiate with the other Stormont parties to reform the power sharing structures. He seems to feel the current arrangements are fine for the moment But I don’t see this as the final arrangement and we’re quite open about that – we would like in due course, this could be years away, to move to a more normal democratic arrangement.” Unsurprisingly Martin McGuinness has dismissed any move towards any form of voluntary coalition as it amounts (according to him) to unionist majority rule. What Paterson seems to be saying may well be sensible from a unionist point of view and I have little doubt is not actually a proposal to return to majority rule. It is also what Peter Robinson has been advocating for some time. However, unless the world changes a great deal to do this from within the current structures would be impossible due to Sinn Fein having a veto.
Paterson may feel that the Fifth Force is proposing this from a different starting point from the DUP and as such it would be acceptable to nationalists due to his new organisations non sectarian nature. It is, however, far too early days to even contemplate saying such a thing no matter the caveats of this could be years away and I am afraid this may simply be used by SF as proof that the New Force is not remotely new.
Paterson is, however, correct in feeling that the current structures do not provide a normal democratic arrangement and indeed are self evidently useless. Unfortunately for both Paterson and the DUP the only way to introduce a more sensible mechanism of power sharing would be to tear the whole thing down and start again. Paterson should know this to be the case and as such his latest intervention is, I am afraid, pretty pointless. Unless that is, it is an attempt to attract TUV 2nd preferences by a very subtle form of masquerading as a hard line unionist / integrationalist aiming destroy the agreement? That is too cynical surely?