“Martin McGuinness’s “veto” throws down challenge to “voluntary” coalition

One of the most predictable pre-election statements of the season, vouchsafed to Liam Clarke. However sound according to the system, Martin McGuinness’ “veto” seems rather less than absolute in practice, should the UUP and the SDLP refuse to take up Executive seats after the election  – and boycott D’Hondt. It would surely provoke a crisis in the Assembly. But to what end? Could it really force a ” voluntary coalition?”  Is this really what voters want?

Above all, how keenly will Peter Robinson and the DUP campaign on their ideas for  a voluntary coalition and a smaller Assembly? With their dominance of unionims all but assured, the temptation not to rock the boat must be strong.  Either way, McGuinness’ pre-emptive statement puts irresistible pressure on the other parties to make their various positions clear.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London