Over in New York, Gerry Adams has just issued a statement on the current impasse over welfare cuts in the Assembly (as reported by Liam Clarke). According to the report, Sinn Féin will let the Assembly fall and trigger an election rather than implement the cuts and Gerry Adams said:
“It isn’t that we want an election but if some of the parties in the North are going to follow this agenda, then let them bring it on to the floor of the Assembly and give the people their say…The party’s position is that we should unite as an Executive at telling the British government that we are not going to impose these cuts.”
The report goes on to say that he didn’t see why:
“…the Executive should fall out on the budget issue given that the Executive represents the people of Northern Ireland and that they voted on a programme of government that contained no reference to welfare cuts.
They don’t take any account at all of the fact that we are a community which is coming out of conflict and it is mostly the poor working-class areas that have suffered the most.”
Ironically, his words were being echoed by, of all people, UKIP’s Nigel Farage, in a fairly contradictory statement saying:
“I have a lot more sympathy for the situation in Northern Ireland. You know, we’re just a few years after a horrendous political and social situation, and I think the British government and parliament will fully accept its responsibilities here,”
While saying that he was also demanding that MPs elected here, in Scotland and Wales be restricted in what they can vote or speak on (clearly intended for the English electorate that is UKIP’s real hope of being returned to the next Westminster parliament in any significant number). Farage also is claiming that not giving greater powers to England could lead to England breaking away from the union. So, not exactly an argument that will elicit any change in Sinn Féin’s position.
The threatened/imminent/likely collapse of the Assembly has been rumoured for so long that it is hard to take seriously at this stage. With a Westminster election coming anyway next May (at the latest), an Assembly election isn’t formally due to May of 2016. And according to the latest DUP tweet supporting Peter Robinson, he intends to see out the next two elections.
Gregory Campbell statement backs Peter Robinson leading DUP into next two elections “where the people will give their verdict on our vision”
— Sam McBride (@SJAMcBride) September 25, 2014
This may be a bit more revealing than intended – do the DUP expect an Assembly and Westminster election on the same day?
With a very visible power struggle now taking place within the DUP, it seems very unlikely that they will trigger an election. Then again, that might be one reason for Sinn Féin to precipitate an election, although it might equally persuade the DUP to close ranks in the short term. With pressure mounting over the next few weeks to implement the cuts to welfare, though, Sinn Féin may finally turn the valve and release some of that pressure by triggering an election. So maybe Robinson will get to fight one of his two elections sooner rather than later.