Unionist Pacts: yet again

There have long been discussions and suggestions regarding the possibility of a unionist pact: the suggestion seems to be as old as the splits within unionism. Indeed although some “liberal” or “progressive” unionists deride the idea, the reality is that the suggestion has very significant popularity throughout the unionist electorate. In the past I have suggested that unionist civility rather than unionist unity would be a good idea. Now, however, there seems to be the possibility of the opposite: unionist unity without the civility.

The Belfast Telegraph is reporting Tom Elliott’s attacks last week on the DUP:

“You need to scratch the surface (of the DUP) and see who you are getting. Are you telling me that Willie McCrea is a nice right of centre politician?” he asked.
The UUP leader went on: “Sad as I am, I recently looked through old DUP videos and party political broadcasts to see some of the blood and thunder within them.
“Some of those same people are still in the frontline.
“They act more like an independent Ulster party and use their link with the Union as secondary.”

Mr Elliott said he would contest any moves by the DUP to try and claim the unionist centre ground.
“We are still the centre right,” he said.
“If somebody came to try and take my house from me and push me out I would battle to keep it.
“That means we have to battle to keep the centre ground, and we will do that.”
He said the DUP and Sinn Fein “manage tribalism and sectarianism between them, one takes one pot of money, the other takes the other”.

In the same article, however, the Telegraph today reports the suggestion that following the election there could be a unionist pact to prevent a Sinn Fein First Minister.

From Tom Elliott again:

“There is no difficulty, as far as I understand it, if parties form relationships after the election but before they nominate ministers,”

And Chief Whip Fred Cobain:

“We have taken legal advice.
“Our advice is that we could adopt a common manifesto with another unionist party after the election.
“If we were working together under an umbrella it would be very difficult for the courts to intervene.
“You need all the trappings of a party even though you are not a party. You need a single leader and a single nominating officer (who appoints ministers), probably the same person as well as a common manifesto, but it can all be done after the election.”

If this is correct it would seem possible that the unionist parties could fight tooth and nail prior to the election and then form a coalition following it. That is of course far from a radical or odd concept: in many electoral systems (including Westminster following May’s election) parties which fought an aggressive campaign against one another then came together as best of friends in the ensuing coalition. Even in NI terms it is also normal except that the coalition is mandatory. Sinn Fein and the DUP are not exactly friendly towards one another at election time. The only difference is that the animosity (at least in public) is maintained following the election.

What the suggestion also represents is clever internal unionist politics. It may help shoot the DUP’s fox of claiming that unionists must vote for them to ensure there is not a Sinn Fein First Minister. Although some suggested that the new liberal DUP might tone down this sort of rhetoric (at least away from the Dreary Steeples) several leading DUP members have made exactly that suggestion recently. Indeed Jeffrey Donaldson’s response to the idea of a pact (also from the Telegraph) was:

“Obviously the best and most effective way to prevent Sinn Fein from becoming the largest party is to ensure the DUP remains the largest party”

As well as ensuring the First Minister is a unionist the other advantage that a post election unionist pact might bring could be to ensure that the combined unionist party achieves the first two ministerial options. As mentioned here, such as the D’Hondt rules, that if the largest party is more than twice the size of the next largest party, that party (the largest) chooses the first two ministries. This would allow unionists to take both Finance (presumably the DUP) and Education (? UUP). This would fulfill (though not in the way he intended) Basil McCrea’s boast at the time of the UUP leadership election that he would ensure Education was taken off Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein will no doubt be highly annoyed if this strategy is followed through; will no doubt denounce it as a unionist conspiracy and an attempt to get back to unionist misrule. It is unclear whether they would be willing to collapse devolution over the issue and but would certainly use it as a rallying call to try to maximise their share of the nationalist vote.

There are other problems with this strategy: Firstly the courts might declare it illegal, though apparently the both unionist parties are confident that that would not be the case.

The remaining problem for the UUP is that it looks a little like UUP drift and them facing both ways. A few weeks ago there was talk about the UUP refusing to take their ministries and entering opposition (possibly with the SDLP). For them now to be contemplating a pact seems like confusion. There is a defence against that, however, and although it may offend a few of the most liberal unionists it is unlikely to be relevant to that many. That defence is to point to the individual who would be Sinn Fein First Minister and then point to his past. To put it at its most brutal: Do we want the man who was commander of the IRA in Londonderry as First Minister? Do we want a man who will say nothing about the murder of a 29 year old census worker or all the other deaths as First Minister? Many outside unionism may denounce such suggestions; some liberal unionists will also denounce it. However, uncomfortable with such blatant remarks as some may be it is highly unlikely to stop any significant number of unionists voting to keep McGuinness out of the First Ministership. The loss of liberal votes for the UUP in that scenario is likely to be outweighed by the gain in people who would rather have voted UUP but voted DUP to keep out SF.

The liberal and progressive unionists may wail (especially on the Internet) that this will stop the garden centre Prods and the Catholic Unionists voting UUP. However, the unicorns have never come to the UUP’s defence before and even in their garden centres unicorns (both Prod and Taig) tend to have a problem with the godfathers of terrorism. They may also prefer not to have Education continue to be made a complete shambles.

, , , , , ,

  • GoldenFleece

    lol you have to wonder if the UUP are actually trying to destroy themselves willingly. More unionists will now vote for Alliance or not vote at all.

  • “the other advantage that a post election unionist pact might bring could be to ensure that the combined unionist party achieves the first two ministerial options. As mentioned here, such as the D’Hondt rules, that if the largest party is more than twice the size of the next largest party, that party (the largest) chooses the first two ministries.”

    You think SF will lose seats while the DUP and UUP gain? Can’t see it myself but I’m sure you’d get good odds for such a long-shot.

  • SK

    Democrats only when if suits them. There’s no point in appealing to unionisms sense of fairness here, because evidently they don’t have one.

    But if such a scenario were to come about, why would either nationalist party want to participate in a system that is perpetually rigged against them?

    If unionists are simply going to disregard the will of the elecotrate, then they run the risk of bringing Stormont down. Is it wise to create that kind of political vacuum at a time when dissidents are unsettlingly active?

  • john

    What a joke as everyone knows FM and DFM are equal if Martin is FM in 2 months what will change? Answer – Nothing!!! So this is all a joke. How can the UUP go to the electorate having a go at the DUP for being ”tribal and sectarian” and for being too cosy with SF and then after the election is over have a ”common manifesto”. The voters wont know what to do other than vote TUV or Alliance depending on their version of Unionism. Big Tom just cant help himself. I cant wait for his next implosion.

  • joeCanuck

    Do we want the man who was commander of the IRA in Londonderry as First Minister?

    Turgon, are you saying that the purpose of the putative pact is only to prevent McGuinness from becoming First Minister, or is it broader? Along the line of “no taigs about the place”.

  • “I have suggested that unionist civility rather than unionist unity would be a good idea.”

    Turgon, there will probably be at least three Unionist parties contesting the Stormont and Council elections. You’ve not mentioned where the TUV fits into a pact which would have ‘very significant popularity throughout the unionist electorate’. Would such a pact have many of the same characteristics as the current dysfunctional hotchpotch at Stormont?

  • Cynic2

    A desperate move by a desperate man facing meltdown in his party’s vote with the prospect that many f his current voters wont make through to the next election so he has nothing to rebuild with after the cataclysm

    Out of date, cant hold its own water and running out of time – the UUP is now as reliable and popular as a Japanese Nuclear Reactor

  • grandimarkey

    “Would such a pact have many of the same characteristics as the current dysfunctional hotchpotch at Stormont?”

    What a speech from the man himself. My favourite line below.

    “The spending priorities of this regime beggar belief. £61m for the GAA and to match it the same for real football”

    Just lovely, Jim.

  • perseus

    Unionists can’t have it both ways.

    In effect they are trying to paper over the 3 way split
    of DUP/UUP/TUV,
    by showing 2 fingers up to the electoral process.

    “Oh we’ll unite after the elections” to stop MMG from FM.

    its pricess really, beggars belief,
    but is typical of the dark hand which unionism has always played since Carson.

    I sincerely hope the Courts and/or HMG will tell em to get lost.
    or pull the other one …

  • Coll Ciotach

    I think that the problem with this is that nationalists may just decide no to accept a joint unionist as a FM. If I am correct the GFA says that not only does the FM need to have an overall majority but also a majority of those designated as nationalist. So if, in all likelihood, SF says no to an agreed unionist nomination then it does not happen.

  • perseus

    correct Coll
    Unionists need to know prior to the elections,
    that if their splits lead to SF being the largest party
    then that’s the rub, that’s life and SF get the FM ( joint office anyway )

    Trying to wiggle/wriggle via courts, umbradge etc is not a runner.

    “A house divided against itself cannot stand ” Mt 12:25
    Turgon can you try to interpert that in relation to Unionism?

    Oh and bye the way MMG as DFM hasn’t ended the world or the Union,
    so what’s the problem?
    In fact MMG is the most popular politician according to BelTel poll ..

  • Cynic2

    MMG is probably the most competent of the lot of them

  • Fair Deal

    Turgon

    This is all to do with the so-called Speaker’s tests. When the PUP and UUP tried to put together a joint grouping in 2006 this was rejected by the Speaker. The tests were defined as:

    “The characteristics of a political party under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 can be summarised as: a short, suitable name; a headquarters, or at least an address for the purpose of communication; officers of the party, including at least a leader, a treasurer and a contact person, called a “nominating officer”, for the purpose of liaising with the Electoral Commission and others; a constitution; a scheme for financial support of the party; and an intention to contest elections.”
    http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/theassembly/Plenary/060911.htm

    This raises the issue of can these be satisfied within the time-scale available and I would consider a legal challenge a certainty.

    The national government is looking at reforming the above act to allow for coalitions/alliances etc.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365154/Will-Tory-Lib-Dem-stand-election-time-New-rules-allow-Coalition-candidate.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

    Such a development would allow a future speaker to issue a new ruling. However, this will not be in place before May.

    Coll

    “If I am correct the GFA says that not only does the FM need to have an overall majority but also a majority of those designated as nationalist. ”

    Incorrect. Those rules were changed by the St Andrews Act.

  • Henry94

    The possibility of a Sinn Fein First Minister is electoral poison for the UUP so it is no surprise that they are desperately trying to make themselves relevant to stopping it. But realistically any unionist who has concerns about it would have to conclude that voting DUP is the safest bet.

    I don’t think the UUP have any intention of doing a deal with the DUP after the election. They are just trying to get around the issue by pretending a vote for them is not a vote for MMG as FM.

    They should look to the SDLP for example. They are not worried about a surge to Sinn Fein in an attempt to make McGuinness FM. They have manged to mark out their own vote and will hold it in the election. They didn’t do it by trying to out-green SF and the UUP shouldn’t try to out-orange the DUP. There are votes to be won in the centre.

  • dwatch

    “When the PUP and UUP tried to put together a joint grouping in 2006 this was rejected by the Speaker.”

    Was that not because this joint grouping was suggested after all ministers had already been elected for the last parliament.

    Say before the election of ministers in the 2011 May election SF win 31 MLA seats, DUP win 30 seats, and UUP win less than 16 seats, what if two UUP MLAs unhappy with the UUP poor election change over to become DUP MLA’s? The DUP would now have 32 MLA’s and be the largest party before the election of ministers. Then MMG would not become First Minister.

  • Nordie Northsider

    Dwatch makes an excellent point. If the UUP get a drubbing in the election it’s more than likely that some of their number will join the DUP anyway. Allegations of careerism can be easily denied – they swapped sides to stop McGuinness and not because their own party is a basket case.

  • perseus

    Nordie,
    If 2 MLA’s from UUP swapped immediately after election 2011
    it would be careerist and would be because their own party is a basket case.
    I don’t see how you could claim otherwise
    oh and and no-one likes a traitor eh wee jeffrey 😉

  • Cynic2

    Perseus

    Awwwww leave poor Jeffrey alone …… in his hotel room

    As for traitors….. you only remain a traitor as long as the organisations you left remains in existence. After that (and it wont be long) you become a savant for spotting the way things were going or someone who selflessly put Unionism before party loyalty

  • dennis the menace

    once again the UUP shoot themselves in the foot.The only real way for unionists to retain the first minister position is to have the largest number of seats, the only unionist party capable of that is the DUP.

  • dwatch

    What happens in May, if both SF & DUP win the same number of Assembly seats (say 30 each) does PR & MMG draw straws who becomes FM and DFM, or do they count which party received the most number of votes to be elected FM?

  • What will Elliot have to say if, not only Marty becomes FM, but the largest grouping is natioalists as well?. He’ll make a right anorak of himself if he goes to Patterson to complain about the voters.

  • The Word

    Surely, you’re just being a bit coy and crafty, Turgon. Your real target seems to me to be the SDLP, for I’m sure you’ll realise that’s who might most be affected by this strategising. Apart from a few surprises in the pipeline, I would tend to agree with the implication of your argument in its effects.

    Martin McGuinness, who’s he doing any harm to?

    What about David Ervine’s claim to know about the wallpaper designs of leading unionist politicians?

    So what signal is being sent by you tonight?

  • andnowwhat

    I would love to know if the unionist parties would be thinking of this (I really can’t see them doing this) if it was the SDLP that could be the lead party.

    To say that it is to stop a former “terrorist” being FM is a bit of a brass one.

    If they did do it what a boon that be for dissident republicans as in, “look. Unionists still will not accept democracy”. If Tom wants to take his party down, that’s his bee’s wax, but he needs to think bigger

  • john

    Just looking at the last election results I think SF will close the gap on the DUP but I dont think they will pick up enough gains to return Marty as First Minister. As for the TUV I dont think they will have the impact they were hoping for so Tom Elliot seems to be getting all hot and bothered over nothing all the scaremongering will only result in even fewer UUP seats.

  • andnowwhat

    John.

    Who is is who are going on about Marty being FM? Certainly not SF.

    For the most part, it is unionists using scare tactics.

    For the rest, it is political navel gazers

  • Greenflag

    ‘For them (UUP) now to be contemplating a pact seems like confusion. ‘

    Understatement of the month that –seems only seems like confusion how about CONFUSION in capitals for clarity ?

    ‘ That defence is to point to the individual who would be Sinn Fein First Minister and then point to his past. To put it at its most brutal: Do we want the man who was commander of the IRA in Londonderry as First Minister?’

    Who is We ? The voters of NI will make that decision. Anyway it’s about time NI had a Non Unionist FM . At least it’ll be a good test for the GFA’s stability . If it can’t survive an SF First Minister it’s probably not worth the paper it’s written on !

    If that’s the only defence that the UUP can come up with for their ‘pact’ then maybe their political extinction at the coming election might be a mercy both for themselves and their would be ‘allies’ not to mention their constitutional opponents . The Alliance party should clean up from the implosion of the UUP vote as will the DUP.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    As the UUP have elected Tommo the Orangeman as their leader their is feck all difference between them – ordinary decent secular Prods have Alliance to vote for and those not keen on having insurgents in government can vote for the TUV. Then there is also the Tory party, the PUP and Sylv in North Down.

    Of course it suits the good guys if Unionists continue to kick the Red White and Blue out of each other but sooner or later they will wise up – wont they?

    Hopefully not.

  • Henry94

    John

    Spot on. The numbers aren’t really there but the DUP will use it as a rallying cry and if the post-election phoney merger is the best response the UUP can come up with they are in fairly bad shape. Unionist voters must be wondering what the point of the UUP is.

  • perseus

    hope I’m wrong, but I do see a constitutional crisis looming ,
    or a “bakerian” wet-dream , depending on your fancy.

    again I ask
    ““A house divided against itself cannot stand ” Mt 12:25
    Turgon can you try to interpert that in relation to Unionism?

    check in later for that.
    ok cynic2 , wee jeff was just an example,
    he does seem to have been sidelined into a role of obtaining
    money from libya for the “good” victims of the troubles.
    poor fella.

  • andnowwhat

    Henry94

    UUP votes are very useful.

    Wash your virtual mouth out with soap.

    Hairdressing suppliers use their voting stats to estimate how much blue rinse to order.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t think most unionists care much about whether or not Martin McGuinness becomes FM. Sure, they’d prefer it didn’t happen, but I don’t think it’s going to make them cross over to that incompetent bunch of directionless nitwits known as the UUP or the Yellow-Pack Paisleyites in the TUV. If they were going to make that leap they’d have made it in 2010 or even in 2007. I think the UUP are misjudging this spectacularly, in the same way they misjudged the mood of their own target electorate over the devolution of policing and justice powers.

    All of this reaffirms what most people of any sense already know, which is that the UUP is utterly devoid of ideas and has no idea what to do except play the Orange card – badly. They’re about as subtle as Kenny Everett.

    As for the actual probability .. it’s hard for me to see the balance of power changing substantially between the SDLP and SF. People have been predicting SF topping out for a long time now but I can’t see them nicking more than a couple of seats. The UUP will lose heavily and the gains will be mopped up mostly by the DUP, less by Alliance.

  • tinman

    Pure desperation. The UUP has been a party without a point for a long time now. Elliott sees the votes flowing away to the DUP, helped along by the ‘keep Martin out’ campaign, and has to do something. This is trying to scoop water out of the Titanic using a small orange bucket.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I might add that the last time an electoral pact was tried, just under a year ago, unionists refused to turn out. The nationalist vote held and the unionist vote dropped in Fermanagh South Tyrone despite the unionist joint candidate being pretty much squeaky clean.

  • andnowwhat

    Is the person designing UUP policy a DUP plant?

    Seriously, could anyone have designed a better ruination of the party than aligning with the tories and then making Elliot leader?

  • Coll Ciotach

    Fair Deal – I looked at the St Andrews agreement and cannot see what in the amendment changes that, but whether it does or not SF can still stop the assembly functioning. They done it over policing so I think they could do it over this.

    Dwatch – concerning equal numbers of MLA’s – decider is number of first preferences.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Fair Deal – I looked at the St Andrews agreement and cannot see what in the amendment changes that, but whether it does or not SF can still stop the assembly functioning.

    They can’t block the FM nomination, but they can refused to nominate the dFM which is what they were threatening to do last time before they chickened out at the last minute.

    They done it over policing so I think they could do it over this.

    I actually think there was a split at the top of SF over this. I don’t think McGuinness agreed with the “stop executive business” thing. I’m not convinced either that it was effective or that it particularly appealed to the public.

    SF are very much constrained by what is possible. That’s why there isn’t an Irish language act or progress on the Maze site.

  • Coll, Fair Deal referred to the St Andrews Agreement Act, not to the St Andrews Agreement.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Comrade – you are on the button with regard to the dilemma that SF have with regard to Stormont. The Irish Language Act should be introduced by Westminster, which, to be fair, is the responsibility of the other sovereign govt to chase up. But the inability of SF to extricate themselves from administrating unionist rule is obvious.

    As for it appealing to the public. The nationalist people were more or less fully behind them in my opinion on the devolving of policing powers issue

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Coll Ciotach,

    re.”They done it over policing so I think they could do it over this.”

    Policing was a line in the sand and SF had the public support of the 3 governments – this is not. A unionist pact will be used as a stick to beat the SDLP at future elections whilst allowing SF to paint themselves as victims and Unionists as instransigent.

    Unionism is now dancing to another Stop-SF-Tune which does little but piss-off the more sensible amongst them and bolster the Alliance.

    … and of course Unionism dance is hampered by having one foot in a very poor condition because of a self inflicted gunshot wound in the shape of a collossal blunder by the DUP at the STA negotiations.

  • ” the unionist vote dropped in Fermanagh South Tyrone”

    CS, the Unionist vote dropped by 1621, the SDLP vote dropped by 3666 and the Alliance Party reappeared and got 437 votes. SF had a winning margin of 4 thanks mainly to the SDLP but with a little help from Alliance.

  • andnowwhat

    I honestly do not believe that the DUP would play the DFM card.

    Much as I have no time for him, Cameron is no Blair, he will not play their silly games. Actually (save for the UNCUF debarcle) could not give a flying one about this place. I doubt that he cares about Scotland.

    If the DUP played that card it would take NI back 20 plus years. In fact, even if they announced t

  • Kevin Barry

    Good article Turgon,

    This is hardly surprising stuff though. I would be lying if I said I knew what the UUP actually stand for aside from all of the fairly fluffy and vague stuff that we take for granted like wanting a strong Union (whatever that is), for NI to get off the old drip feed of Govt. funded growth/stagnation etc., but they are very short on detail.

    IMO Robbo is playing a blinder at the moment. He hasn’t said much or anything of late on any of these matters and his electoral competitors are actually doing all of the talking, making it very easy work for him to probably pick up votes, incredible.

  • andnowwhat

    We need to stop playing these games.

    Politicians need t

  • andnowwhat

    We need to stop playing these games.

    Politicians need to stop playing these games.

    Journos need to stop playing these games.

    We are no longer the “special needs” region.

    This goverment is serious shit guys. We need an elecion on real issues.

    NI is as secure as a ball sack in a titanium groin guard…..move the agenda

  • It appears that the Unionism is contemplating electoral fraud to exercise power…….. which itself must indicate to the electorate that they are not fit and intellectually equipped to govern them honestly.

    When are they going to realise that one has to make one’s own way in the world and the future is all that matters so bury the past whenever it is destroying your present credibility and exposing one to ridicule and chances of valid charges of entrenched institutional and social bigotry and political fraud.

  • aquifer

    The Belfast Telegraph suffocating the Union with kindness

    All is well in the red white and blue tinted kindergarden.

  • Mr. Elliott is trying to pretend that the UUP are somehow different from the DUP.

    Mr Elliott said he would contest any moves by the DUP to try and claim the unionist centre ground.
    “We are still the centre right,” he said.

    The UUP never were the centre right. Had they been, the pact with the Conservatives might have stood a chance of survival. If anybody thinks otherwise, ask Dr. Chris McGimpsey. This is what he had to say to the Observer:

    ‘The Ulster Unionist Party is much more than a political party. It can be more accurately described as a movement. It is a coalition of conservative, liberal and labour interests who have come together to defend and promote the strategic interests of maintaining and strengthening the Union.

    ‘But the defence of the constitutional status quo was never enough for left-wingers like myself within the UUP. Certainly we value the Union, but we also want a society that is much more fair and equal than the Conservatives will ever believe in.’,

    It is fair also to say that Fred Cobain, whom you have quoted above would be quite happy to describe himself as one of those unionist lefties.

    An even more ridiculous suggestion is that the DUP is a sectarian party and the UUP is not. However, if you look at Elliott’s words closely, he is not saying that the UUP is not sectarian. He says that the DUP and Sinn Fein “manage tribalism and sectarianism between them”. Managing sectarianism is something that Tom Elliott would love to do. If his party was the largest unionist party, you can be very sure that he would be telling unionists to vote for his party to stop Martin McGuiness from becoming first minister. He knows, however, that so long as his party is smaller than the DUP, he will not be able to “manage” sectarianism and tribalism.

    I am all in favour of separate unionist parties, provided they have something different to offer between them. The reality is that there is no rsignificant difference between the DUP and the UUP. They may as well merge.

  • dwatch

    ‘Dwatch – concerning equal numbers of MLA’s – decider is number of first preferences.’

    Coll Ciotach thats what I thought, still all the more reason for changing the name of FM & DFM to JFM (Joint First Minister) & put this hyped up tosh originated in Ballinamallard Orange LOL to bed once and for all.

    Latest UTV news: MMG states: “If the electorate return Sinn Féin and the DUP as the largest party, I would be prepared to give consideration to the title of ‘Joint First Minister’, or both First Minister,” he told UTV.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Seymour – very well said.

    Nevin:

    CS, the Unionist vote dropped by 1621, the SDLP vote dropped by 3666 and the Alliance Party reappeared and got 437 votes. SF had a winning margin of 4 thanks mainly to the SDLP but with a little help from Alliance.

    It’s the fault of Alliance and the SDLP that Rodney Connor failed to persuade people to vote for him ?

    Coll Ciotach:

    Comrade – you are on the button with regard to the dilemma that SF have with regard to Stormont.

    It’s not really a dilemma as much as a reality. SF and their supporters are making themselves look very silly by claiming they can wield power to make the unionists do things they don’t want to do, when various things stand as evidence that this isn’t the case.

    The Irish Language Act should be introduced by Westminster, which, to be fair, is the responsibility of the other sovereign govt to chase up.

    I do wish republicans would get their heads straight over whether they want London interference or not.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    dwatch,

    “Latest UTV news: MMG states: “If the electorate return Sinn Féin and the DUP as the largest party, I would be prepared to give consideration to the title of ‘Joint First Minister’, or both First Minister,” he told UTV.”

    So Unionists are planning organising their electoral strategy on stopping SF having something that SF may decide to negotiate away.

    That is the trouble when you are dancing to someones else tune – when they switch songs you can look pretty silly.

  • Fair Deal

    Henry94

    “the DUP will use it as a rallying cry”

    Why would they need to use when it appears the UUP is doing all its work for them?

    UUP-friendly and media commentators have been claiming the DUP has been driving the issue but the party that keeps talking about it is the UUP.

    dwatch

    “Was that not because this joint grouping was suggested after all ministers had already been elected for the last parliament.”

    No ministers hadn’t been appointed in September 2006. The previous attempt at running d’hondt had never got past FM and DFM. At that time the Assembly was operating to a November deadline to get it all sorted out and a further run of d’hondt was possible. IIRC due to the mathematics of D’hondt this extra MLA would have delivered an extra ministerial seat. Whatever its origins the test is what will be applied.

  • CS, IIRC you claimed that AP is an amalgam which contains Unionists and Nationalists. I find it hard to believe that carpet-slipper AP folks would opt for SF, a party with Mafia-style trappings, as against someone you have described as squeaky clean. Therefore the AP intervention gifted SF the seat.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Fair Deal, wee Jeffrey has already been piping it out any chance he gets, “only way to keep Marty out is vote DUP” or something like that. The situation was manufactured by the DUP at St Andrews for this purpose, Peter’s little trump card to resurrect the bogey man, where the reality is Marty is already running the show since he saved Peters skin.
    Can you reassure me that the DUP will not use this issue to scare voters? some chance, but I’m guessing it will be saved up till the last minute and rolled out to bring the stray sheep home.
    It was always a dirty underhanded tactic, creating a situation that would undermine the perception of the Union if not the reality, just to play this game. I dont like the UUP playing along but unfortunately it looks like we have to deal with it now and fight the election on the real issues.

  • Henry94

    Fair Deal

    That’s true but has anybody done a constituency analysis of how it could happen. It’s just not there. SF might gain 2 seats from what I can see. Nowhere near enough.

  • Henry94. It’s possible that, just for this time, SDLP voters could ‘lend’ SF their votes and the combined SF /SDLP votes would push Marty over the line. Ritchie should be worried as there will be a squeeze on their vote as well as Tom Elliot’s deadbeats. Fair play to Nolan, this morning, he exposed McNarry’s anti democratic agenda. He really hasn’t learned anything from the axing of the ancien regime at stormont in ’72.

  • Henry94

    madraj55

    I honestly don’t believe SDLP voters would be that excited at the prospect of a Sinn Fein FM. Where is there a single seat that could flip on the issue? I don’t see one.

  • dwatch

    Fair Deal, indeed, back in 2006 the UUP and PUP organised a pact, to gain an extra ministerial seat. This was given the thumbs down because David Irvine (leader of the PUP) was not deflecting to the UUP.

    However if SF became the biggest party on the assembly in 2011 it could be changed If a required number of UUP MLA’s decided to deflect to the DUP to make them the biggest party just before the election of ministers, surely this could not be given the thumbs down, or could it?????

    But the deflection would have to happen before the election/selection of ministers and the formation of a new executive otherwise I presume it would not work.

  • “I honestly don’t believe SDLP voters would be that excited at the prospect of a Sinn Fein FM. Where is there a single seat that could flip on the issue? I don’t see one.”

    Upper Bann.

  • Fair Deal

    DR

    “wee Jeffrey has already been piping it out any chance he gets”

    Can you provide the examples of this? If you peruse the DUP press statements you will find comment on this issue is in response to others raising it (usually the UUP) so its reactive rather than proactive. Neither was it a feature of the DUP’s conference, PPB or leaflet distributed in the BT.

    “The situation was manufactured by the DUP at St Andrews for this purpose”

    Read the St Andrews Agreement – that statement is factual wrong.

    Henry 94

    A constituency analysis which has the DUP losing 4-5 and SF gaining 4-5 can be produced? The likelihood is you can debate until the cows come home (and no doubt some will debate it to death in the coming weeks). A significant drop/collapse of SDLP is the necessary factor on the nationalist side combining with issues on Unionist side.

  • Henry94

    Ulick

    Possibility of a gain there anyway but more than likely if it does happen to be an extra nationalist seat rather than a loss for SDLP.

    But even allowing it that leaves a gap of seven. Can SF gain another three or four while the DUP drop a few?

  • Henry94

    FD

    Yes a drop of four for the DUP and a gain of four for SF would level it. It’s hard to find likely constituencies to justify all the hysteria.

  • Fair Deal

    dwatch

    “However if SF became the biggest party on the assembly in 2011 it could be changed If a required number of UUP MLA’s decided to deflect to the DUP to make them the biggest party just before the election of ministers, surely this could not be given the thumbs down, or could it?????”

    I personally don’t know about the defection option. I’ll have to have a look at the legislation again. If the legal hurdle is jumpable or doesn’t exist then the practical is the issue – namley as others have pointed out nationalist acquienscence would be needed for it to work.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    “Yes a drop of four for the DUP and a gain of four for SF would level it. It’s hard to find likely constituencies to justify all the hysteria”

    Someone, perhaps Turgon, needs to review the TUV prospects by constituency – I suspect Jimbo will get elected and to continue to ‘build’ the TUV whilst pissing from the inside of the tent over just about evrybody – but will any of his other chaps standing with him have a sniff?

    I suspect not.

  • The changing face of OFMDFM:

    1998 Agreement: “Key decisions requiring cross-community support will be designated in advance, including election of the Chair of the Assembly, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, standing orders and budget allocations.”

    1998 Act: (4)The nominating officer of the largest political party of the largest political designation shall nominate a member of the Assembly to be the First Minister.
    (5)The nominating officer of the largest political party of the second largest political designation shall nominate a member of the Assembly to be the deputy First Minister.

    StAA: The Nominating Officer of the largest party in the largest designation in the Assembly shall make a nomination to the Assembly Presiding Officer for the post of First Minister. The Nominating Officer of the largest party in the second largest designation in the Assembly shall similarly nominate for the post of Deputy First Minister.

    StAA Act: 16A 4)The nominating officer of the largest political party of the largest political designation shall nominate a member of the Assembly to be the First Minister.
    (5)The nominating officer of the largest political party of the second largest political designation shall nominate a member of the Assembly to be the deputy First Minister.
    16D (6)If at any time the party which is the largest political party of the largest political designation is not the largest political party—
    (a)any nomination to be made at that time under section 16A(4) or 16B(4) shall instead be made by the nominating officer of the largest political party; and
    (b)any nomination to be made at that time under section 16A(5) or 16B(5) shall instead be made by the nominating officer of the largest political party of the largest political designation.”

    Please correct me if I’m wrong but it looks as if the drafters of the 1998 Act dropped the cross community requirement that the voters endorsed in the 1998 Agreement. The wording in the StAA and section 16A of the StAA Act looks very similar to that in the 1998 Act. 16D drops the largest designation need for the position of First Minister – it looks like a last minute side-deal.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Nevin, the DUP had to have signed up for it or else there would have been no deal.

  • DR, I’m more interested in the tinkering that goes on in the legislation after agreements have been endorsed. It gives the impression that we can vote/agree until we are blue in the face and then London and Dublin will just turn round and do what suits them.

  • dwatch

    Latest news: UUP leader given the cold shoulder by Robbo.

    “Peter Robinson dismissed the latest controversy over who will become first minister as an electoral tactic today.

    Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness has said creating joint first minister posts is an option which could be looked at after the election.

    Sinn Féin may become the largest in the Assembly after the May poll.

    Mr Robinson said: “It is fairly clear that they are concerned that the unionist population is rallying around the DUP and they are trying to undermine it.

    “It is an electoral tactic, people do these kind of things.”

    Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott has disclosed proposals for a post-electoral pact with the DUP if Sinn Féin was to become the largest party. Mr Robinson rejected it.

    “The suggestion put forward by Tom Elliott is a non-starter because he committed himself to his party that he would not have any merger with the DUP while he was leader,” he said.

    “We are in the election to win. I want the DUP to be coming out on top, we are going out to succeed and we are looking for the future of the people.”

    He said under the St Andrews Agreement it was the party with the largest designation (unionists) which named the First Minister.

    The DUP leader said he had not raised the issue of positions in the next executive but added people could lend the DUP their votes to ensure Sinn Féin did not name the next first minister.

    “I want the DUP to be the largest party in Northern Ireland, not just because it means we hold the first minister post, it means we have the first choice of departments, it means we go around the world speaking on behalf of Northern Ireland, every party will seek to ensure it becomes the largest party,” he added. ”

    Read more: http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/robinson-dismisses-joint-first-minister-controversy-498217.html#ixzz1HKuHjRxr

  • henry94. They wouldn’t do it for Sinn fein’s sake obviously but I’m some SDLP voters would try it if they were in constituencies were their own candidate had little hope.
    Anyway, what the Unionist parties should worry about is not SF taking the FM post, but rather that nationalists are closing in on being entitled [were it not for Paisley’s fix] to the seat as largest grouping.SF have been top of poll in last two outings at least.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Nevin:

    CS, IIRC you claimed that AP is an amalgam which contains Unionists and Nationalists.

    I have never claimed that Alliance is an “amalgam” of any kind. Alliance supporters are mostly characterized by their rejection of tribal labels. I appreciate that this is a rather difficult notion to conceive within the mind of someone incapable of perceiving political aspirations beyond the usual tribal binary constraints.

    I find it hard to believe that carpet-slipper AP folks would opt for SF, a party with Mafia-style trappings, as against someone you have described as squeaky clean.

    So why do you find it so easy to believe that people who you seem to think would naturally vote for Connor chose not to do so, despite there being a very real prospect of him depriving SF of the seat, knowing that an Alliance win would be very unlikely ?

    I’d have damn near voted for SF myself, just to teach unionism a lesson for using a hate campaign and a hypocritical tribal pact to try to take it from them. I wonder how many people thought this way.

    Therefore the AP intervention gifted SF the seat.

    No they didn’t. SF got their vote out, and the combined unionist candidate failed to inspire.