Trench warfare, kamikaze style…

The Northern Ireland Executive’s trench warfare continued today with NI deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, issuing a statement claiming that the UUP and the SDLP “were lobbying for public money for their parties in talks with the British government in exchange for adopting an oppositional role in the Assembly.”

Well, it’s a variation on his last claim, but the UUP are arguing of the need for a properly funded opposition by 2015.

But the SDLP have denied Martin McGuinness’ claim, and they’ve issued a robust statement of their own.

BBC NI political editor, Mark Devenport, notes the escalation of hostilities

…today the Deputy First Minister widened the accusation to the SDLP, claiming he had information that the party had also been involved in discussions on funding an opposition. He mentioned Margaret Ritchie by name.

Both Ms Ritchie and Alasdair McDonnell were quick to deny this – accusing Sinn Fein of “kite flying”. When I spoke to a government source, they also said that in recent meetings between the NIO and the SDLP the question of funding an opposition had not been raised.

However tonight Sinn Fein hit back – claiming that Mr McGuinness’s information had come directly from the Secretary of State Owen Paterson, at meeting with the Deputy First Minister at which note takers were present. [added emphasis]

And, being a good journalist, Mark Devenport checked that source, as he notes in an update to the post

UPDATE: The NIO tonight said that during his meeting with Martin McGuinness, Owen Paterson did raise the hypothetical possibility of the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP going into opposition in the future and asked Sinn Fein’s view. However the NIO say their notes don’t include a reference to Margaret Ritchie and they acknowledge that the SDLP themselves has NOT raised the opposition option. The NIO says its position is that no changes to the Stormont system will be made without the agreement of the local parties.  [added emphasis]

Maybe the NI deputy First Minister is just a bit confused…

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  • The Word

    Well, this nonsense just wouldn’t happen if the best people for the job were in the top positions. Clearly this present order only leads to paranoia.

  • joeCanuck

    Be sure to let us know your real name when you stand for election, The Word. Independant?

  • The Word

    What’s your business, “joeCanuck”?

  • joeCanuck

    My business? Why, I’m a wannabe election agent. Reasonable rates.

  • Dec

    ‘The NIO tonight said that during his meeting with Martin McGuinness, Owen Paterson did raise the hypothetical possibility of the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP going into opposition in the future and asked Sinn Fein’s view. However the NIO say their notes don’t include a reference to Margaret Ritchie and they acknowledge that the SDLP themselves has NOT raised the opposition option. ‘

    Well, if the Brits said it, it must be true. Given that most of the SDLP votes comes from UUP suuporters these days, the case for them forming an opposition with UCUNF is compelling.

  • dennis the menace

    they acknowledge that the SDLP themselves has NOT raised the opposition option…….

    because the SDLP did not RAISE it doesnt mean it wasnt discussed.

  • Driftwood

    Stormont is de facto North Irelandshire county council. Less power than most other English councils but effectively the same as this:
    http://www.rutland.gov.uk/default.asp

    Does a tiny regional parish council need an opposition? Maybe so but we still have to go to our Lords and Masters at Westminster to see actual power. The paymasters..purse strings. Just a wee reminder of who really is boss in this locality.

  • Driftwood

    Maybe Stormont could ‘benchmark’ with a similar body doing much the same thing?

    http://www.rutnet.co.uk/pp/gold/viewGold.asp?ID=486

    Even twinning Stormont Borough Council with a fellow English one would bring benefits to both?

    Owen Paterson and Theresa May should have lunch over our two ‘pilot’ councils. A ‘win-win’ scenario.

  • “at which note takers were present”

    Such information might not be accessible. FoI Exemption: “Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice relations between any administration in the United Kingdom and any other such administration.”

  • Cynic2

    Can someone tell us what SF are so afraid of?

  • 241934 john brennan

    See my 6.10pm post on “TRENCH WARFARE HAS ERUPTED” – quoting Delores Kelly

    Here is another summary (more SDLP extracts) on the same subject:

    “ It is the view of the SDLP that the spirit of government here is broken not its actual system.

    “We agree that people deserve and expect more than the mere fact of devolution. They want to see an executive that delivers for them and comes up with imaginative ideas to create jobs and protect frontline services and vulnerable households.

    “Instead we have a DUP/SF executive defined by carve-up and exclusion. And here lies the rub, failures at the heart of the present government are due to two parties who can only work together in their own interest – and are failing the people of Northern Ireland.

    “We should blame the workmen not the tools. It is bad politics, not a bad system, which produces bad results for families and firms – and we don’t need to look any further than the current flawed draft budget for proof.

    “The SDLP has long acknowledged that elements of the Good Friday Agreement were designed to be evolutionary. But evolution only follows maturity.

    “It is quite clear that neither Sinn Fein nor the DUP have embraced the true spirit of partnership and power-sharing to allow any serious conversation of this nature to get underway. They have failed to build any serious or sufficient trust in their government.

    “The SDLP is not opposed to government reform. Indeed, as we approach the May elections we will bring forward plans to reshape the institutions and create an Assembly and Executive that may be leaner in size but will have more muscle in terms of impacting positively on the lives of all the people of Northern Ireland.”