Phony war over First Minister title begins…

There’s an awful lot of flurrying over Martin McGuinness’ (deputy with a small ‘d’ First Minister) apparent offer to ‘consider’ sharing the office of First Minister, should he come through in first place in May’s poll. It should be noted it that is possible for Sinn Fein to achieve that, if they pick up every target they have, but it is unlikely… Anyway, here’s his interview for UTV:

And here’s the companion dismissal from Arlene Foster…

As Mark Devenport points out, since Sinn Fein has already had the opportunity to tinker with legislation to allow some sort of amelioration of the term ‘deputy’… and declined…

Big word ‘consider’… Another negotiation point to throw into the next Assembly’s legislative programme? If so, what would be the price? Compulsory Irish in every school in Northern Ireland? Aye, maybe when we’ve sorted out selection.

Or is it, I dare ask, just more pre-election phony war?

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  • Henry94

    Both video clips are the same. No sign of Arlene which is a pity. I enjoy her videos especially the FST election night special.

    McGuinness is being generous. It won’t come up this time but I’m sure the offer will stand in ten years or so when it may be a possibility.

  • Mick Fealty

    Copied the wrong code, fixed now. Sorry.

  • Local hack

    The prospect of a SF first minister is a scare tactic used by the unionists to try to drive their electorate to the polls.

    They need to realise that the unionist electorate is turning away because of in fighting between unionists and an apparent lack of direction on key issues.

  • JR

    If that is what people are voting on then they deserve whatever politicians they get.

  • serak

    Where was the suggestion of compulsory Irish? The link was a bit misleading

  • Kadfoomsa

    “Compulsory Irish”

    No one has ever suggested such?

    Media attempting to be players Mick? Sexing up the dossier?

  • andnowwhat

    Wow!! What a great counter by Arlene.

    I heard Nelson Mc Causland on the radio this morning. All parties were represented in the debate but Nelson was left looking foolish as Alliance, the SDLP and SF (obviously) all agreed that FM and DFM had the same authority.

    David Mc Narry was representing the UUP and played silly games, refusing to answer the question about their true democracy

  • “the opportunity to tinker with legislation”

    I’ve just put up a post [12:41pm] which looks at how the drafters of legislation have tinkered with the OFMDFM arrangements after the voters endorsed the 1998 Agreement and the politicians signed up to the St Andrew’s Agreement. Any corrections to my post gratefully received :L

    These little side-deals seem to have been designed by London in association with Dublin to benefit Sinn Fein, irrespective of any collateral damage that would be inflicted on the UUP-AP-SDLP spectrum and Joe and Josey Public.

    The UUP and SDLP have now each dropped to about 16% of the vote to the benefit of the DUP and SF; AP is around 6%. This pattern has produced an Executive where the minnows are scrambling for crumbs following a carve-up in advance of Executive meetings by the DUP and SF. It also sends a signal to the wider society that many communities will continue to be ravaged by paramilitarism whilst the ‘good’ godfathers are treated as ‘statesmen’.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    The TUV line on this is interesting (though it has little chance of attracting the necessary votes). Vote TUV and there will be a SF First Minister -and as that will unacceptable to Unionists – Stormo will therefore collapse.

    As mentioned elsewhere a crypto-insider like Turgon is needed to assess the TUV’s strength – presumably Jimbo would be absolutely delighted if he got 2 seats off the DUP.

  • Mick Fealty


    That was meant to be a rhetorical question, not a statement of fact. Coming from a Minister who promised the end of selective education, the promise of Irish in all NI schools (a thoroughly good thing in my own personal book, were it even remotely likely), ought to be taken with the proverbial bag of salt.

  • joeCanuck

    Many people claim that the responsibilities and powers of the FM and DFM are identical and one cannot act or speak unilaterally on matters of state. If that is true, then they should rename the positions as Joint FMs.

  • “[Robinson] said under the St Andrews Agreement it was the party with the largest designation (unionists) which named the First Minister.”

    Perhaps Peter needs to re-read sections 16A and 16D of the more relevant document, the St Andrew’s Agreement Act.

  • andnowwhat. David McNarry isn’t a serious figure anymore, if indeed he ever was. Nolan give him a good grilling this morning. No doubt, if he’s asked about the protesters in arab countries, he’ll say they had the right to march for democracy, but not Catholics here in ’68. Typical.

  • dennis the menace

    Anyone know whats going on in strangford. From what Ive been told McNarry has concerns he may lose out to Nesbitt now that the DUP are running 4 candidate…anyone with any more info on this?

  • 241934 john brennan

    This is just an example of two phoney political parties asking for a vote that helps them – not you.

    Remember SF/DUP are simple the parties of violence and protest – not politics

    Just because they are now in double harness together doesn’t mean they ever intend pulling together for the common good – or even honestly pulling against each other – but simply keeping up the pretence of a sham fight – to maximise partisan/sectarian votes

    As Barnum said: “You can fool some of the people alll of the time”.

  • Aontachtach


    I don’t think the DUP will win four seats in Strangford. I live in the area and even some DUP supporters think that. None of the four will bring in the votes like Iris did last time round. Her surplus carried two of them past the post with her. The weakest candidate is William Walker. McNarry has very few votes in Newtownards, especially in working class estates. They mainly vote DUP. Unfortunately he will scrape in on the back of the good UUP candidite Mike Nesbitt. Let’s hope not! If the SDLP put up a decent candidate they will give the Alliance a close run.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’d say that’s right. Nesbitt did pretty well in the context of a poorly led and articulated party campaign. Most I’ve spoken to in the DUP would admit they’ll do well to hold on to what they have.

    Having said that it’s not difficult to see where there might be movement, but diificult to see where the momentum for change is going to come from.

    Nesbitt and McCusker are two bright spots for the UUP, but the low level defections continue. And the sense that its every old hand for himself prevails over good electoral sense.

    Sinn Fein are working the registers again to steal a bit more ground from the SDLP in a situation where the turnout is likely to fall so it might just yield them some unexpected fruit.

    But my money’s being reserved for the Rugby world cup, where I’m being stupidly patriotic for the sake of a 25/1 price on Ireland.

  • Comrade Stalin


    These little side-deals seem to have been designed by London in association with Dublin to benefit Sinn Fein,

    You’re sounding more like vintage Ian Paisley every day. Please take the blinkers away from your eyes and try to stop this “sold down the river” bullshit.

    Let’s talk a bit of common sense here. These modifications – such as this, and the modification of the ministerial code – were primarily the work of the DUP. They put them in so that the same tactics that they used to destabilize the UUP/SDLP executive could not be used to destabilize a future executive where they would be in charge. Remember that the DUP leadership are only too aware of the possibility that a bunch of their own hardliners could break off – that’s why they obtained the post-dated resignation letters from their candidates. This measure is intended to make sure that a rump bloc of rogue DUP MLAs couldn’t (as would have been possible under the previous legislation) break off and side with the Ulster Unionists to prevent the nomination of the FM/DFM.

    The DUP used to make a mockery of the executive, refusing to participate, and voting against executive bills in the assembly. That’s why they had the ministerial code modified to make it illegal for ministers to do this in future. I don’t view it so much as stitching the system up to uphold DUP/SF so much as closing some of the loopholes that htey used to exploit.

    irrespective of any collateral damage that would be inflicted on the UUP-AP-SDLP spectrum and Joe and Josey Public.

    Nonsense. The UUP and SDLP, especially the UUP, destroyed themselves through their own incompetence and bad leadership. The government spent far too long trying to prop them up.

    Anything that sees McNarry lose his seat can only be positive. Ulster Unionists will likely also lose a seat in East Antrim with Ken Robinson stepping down.

  • CS, interesting point you make about blinkers. Can I point out that the DUP, er, wasn’t involved in the composition of the 1998 Agreement or the Act that followed it? [Follow link in 1:14 pm post above]

    I’ve got no illusions about the competence and leadership qualities of our local parties; I’ve pointed out numerous failings over the years. The Rathlin ferry saga and the NI Water fiasco exposed some of their limitations.

    As an advocate of shared sovereignty I might well be accused of selling some folks down the river and preventing others from crossing it :L

  • Mick Fealty

    CS was plainly referring to the legislative amendments in the SAA (which you have alreadylinked to once today)!

    Nev, do keep up. And quit dragging us down literalist bye ways!!

  • Chris Donnelly

    Sinn Fein aren’t in the running in Strangford, and their decision to shift out of the constituency the Portaferry based Naomi Bailie to run as the also ran third candidate in South Down illustrates just how little thought the party continues to put into party development in majority unionist constituencies like Strangford, where the party has no credible history.

    The SDLP are in with a shout but would have to make a considerably greater effort than was the case during the Westminster elections if they’re to oust Alliance.

  • “Nev, do keep up.”

    Mick, what’s to keep up with? Perhaps I’m ahead of the field :L

    I took your advice on looking at powerplays; I also look at the wider picture as well as the nuances. You flurry if you want to.

  • liam charles

    There is no difference between to two positions, and the tens of thousands of people who will not come out to vote know this.

    Until we start seeing politicians talking less crap and more sense those people will never vote.

    So the Assembly will again be selected by those fools who believe the hype.

    Nothing will change until there is something different to vote for.

  • Comrade Stalin

    If you think a bit more about this “debate” it crosses your mind some of the naked sectarianism and double standards at play here.

    Ian Paisley is a man who marched people around with gun licenses, who has been photographed standing with loyalist paramilitaries, and a person who many loyalist paramilitaries cite as an inspiration for the violent actions/murders they chose to engage in. He even once threatened police officers “don’t come running to me when they burn you out of your houses” and well known senior loyalist paramilitaries have even been members of his party.

    Yet apparently hearts didn’t bleed at the thought of those victims whenever Paisley was appointed FM. Could someone please explain to me why the justifications in keeping McGuinness out of the role of FM don’t apply to unionists ?

  • “don’t apply to unionists”

    CS, can I suggest you give a little more thought to the Slugger guidelines about going into a tackle with the studs raised.

    You make good points about Paisley. I formerly voted for Paisley and Hume down the list in EU elections. Then when I started giving some thought to their respective roles in setting this place alight I changed my mind. You’ll hardly be surprised to hear that I don’t vote for the likes of a Jackie McDonald or a Martin McGuinness.

    [Correction: Where I said 16D of the StAA Act I should have said 16C, the part of the act I quoted from.]

  • andnowwhat

    Great post CS.

    Nevin…..what did Hume do to set the place alight?

  • “most people appear more concerned about the economy and cuts” .. Davenport

    He’s quite right about voter’s concerns but, as the recent FST results show, when they go to the ballot box the old electoral war is no phony. The OFMDFM tussle is just one facet of the war by other means. Why would SF tinker with the legislation when you consider the propaganda value of the FM ‘prize’?

  • Just a brief reply, andnowwhat. When you look at our history for the past few generations (eg the late Tony Stewart’s “Narrow Ground”) you’ll see how the confrontational street politics of the likes of Paisley and Hume would drop us into the familiar tramlines.