In the Belfast Telegraph Liam Clarke provides a useful corrective to the more excitable commenters’ response to Secretary of State Owen Paterson’s recent remarks about a potential future Northern Ireland First Minister. From the Belfast Telegraph article
If you forgot the context, the soundbite could almost be taken as a call to vote Sinn Fein in order to copperfasten progress, but everyone knows that isn’t what Mr Paterson meant.
He was making two other points. The first was that, if Sinn Fein accepts the top ceremonial office at Stormont, it shows that they have bought into the system and there is no going back for them.
The second is that it is a sign of progress in Northern Ireland if government positions can be exchanged between opposing parties without a collapse into street-protest and violence, as generally happened in the last century.
It is a sign of stability and maturity in any country when the results of elections are accepted as legitimate and replace brute force as the basis for government.
Power would not even change hands; barring a landslide in public opinion, the same parties will remain in government as before.
The positions of First and deputy First Minister carry equivalent authority.
The only difference is that one carries marginally more kudos than the other.
And he adds
Obsessing about who will provide the First Minister may be a fun way of wrong-footing British ministers; it may even provide 15 minutes of fame on the evening news.
But it amounts to a call for their supporters to unite behind the DUP.
Isn’t that normally the DUP’s job?