Unionism’s Anti-Power Sharing ‘Present’

Mick has already posted a piece regarding Peter Robinson’s comments about his party’s traditional attitude to power-sharing with nationalists.

Ironically, the past twenty-four hours have once again brought news of political unionism’s continuing hostility to the notion of inclusive power-sharing with their nationalist neighbours in unionist majority councils across the north of Ireland- some 14 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement heralded the onset of all-inclusive power sharing structures at Stormont.

Craigavon Council last night became the scene for an intriguing row after a split unionist vote enabled the Sinn Fein candidate for mayor, Mairead O’Dowd, to top the poll in the election contest. The unionist representatives then decided to eliminate the last candidate, UUP’s Arnold Hatch, to the consternation of nationalist representatives, who have sought legal advice over the manoeuvre. The majority unionist council has had only three non-unionist mayors in 39 years of its existence, and none for the past nine years.

Regardless of the outcome of that development, the incident once again highlighted the contradictory stance of the local unionist political parties on the issue of power-sharing with their nationalist neighbours- something which obviously sits uncomfortably with benign interpretations of Peter Robinson’s comments on   Hearts and Minds and elsewhere.

Craigavon DUP councillor, Woolsey Smith, is reported in The Irish News as saying that his party would not be prepared to accept power-sharing on the council until Sinn Fein “proved itself a democratic party.”

Here’s more from Woolsey Smith:

When Sinn Fein prove they are peace-loving and able to share power properly and not want to be in control of everything then we might be prepared to consider a power-sharing method.

Of course, Craigavon is not unique. In terms of excluding the major voice of northern nationalists from the highest position in local civic offices, Sinn Fein, the unionist-controlled councils of Lisburn, Newtownabbey, Antrim and Ballymoney can be added to the list alongside Craigavon.

Perhaps most interestingly, it is instructive to remember how DUP councillors in Peter Robinson’s stronghold of Castlereagh acted within hours of the 2011 local government election results to shut out not only nationalists but the Alliance Party by forming a pan-unionist alliance with the Ulster Unionist Party.