More Questions Than Answers Following UUP Withdrawal

So the UUP executive met today and ratified Mike Nesbitt’s decision to leave the Northern Ireland executive, on Tuesday of this coming week Danny Kennedy will resign from his position as Minister for Regional Development – but what does this mean?

I have spent today discussing this at length and have concluded that I know as much about the potential ramifications today than I knew this time last year… So what questions remain open-ended?

  • What link is Mike Nesbitt aware of between current Sinn Fein and the PIRA? If he is aware of an existing link between the proscribed organization and the political party, he should surely morally (and legally) inform the PSNI of such a link – if however he is not aware of any existing link, then why is he essentially trying to punish Sinn Fein for an act that neither he nor the PSNI Chief Inspector can link to them.
  • Why resign the Executive? Nesbitt has stated that trust has broken down with Sinn Fein as a result of their denial of the existence of the PIRA – he referred to Gerry Adams’ “Single Transferable Speech of Denial.” The UUP leader has also suggested in interviews that until George Hamilton said that the PIRA still existed, he believed that they did not exist in such a format – and is now angry disappointed upset admonishing Sinn Fein for denying what Nesbitt himself apparently believed weeks and even days beforehand.
  • Why just resign the executive? If the UUP believe that Sinn Fein cannot be trusted, why remain in the Assembly with them? Why sit in the assembly chamber with a Sinn Fein speaker? Why sit in committees with Sinn Fein chairpersons and deputies? For example, Sandra Overend, as deputy chair of the Committee for Education, will have to work with John O’Dowd as Education Minister. Is Nesbitt completely ok with one of his party working closely with a party that he says “cannot be trusted.” What about councils? Why is Nesbitt accepting that party colleagues will sit in committees and council executives with Sinn Fein members, that they presumably can’t trust.
  • What does opposition look like? How can the UUP maintain their position in committees, and yet be in opposition. How can a committee chair of a party in government who is unable to attend a committee meeting, defer control to a deputy chair from a party in opposition? How can Mike Nesbitt himself as chair of the OFMDFM committee, leave control to Chris Lyttle of the Alliance party – a party in the executive with Sinn Fein, a party that cannot be trusted.
  • At what point will Mike Nesbitt see Sinn Fein and the PIRA as something different? In 10 years time, if a drug dealer in Ardoyne is beaten or shot in the knees and the 3 assailants are or are claimed to be in the IRA, will Mike Nesbitt hold Sinn Fein to any level of account for that? What about 2o years? What about in 30 years when Martin McGuinness, Gerry Kelly, Gerry Adams, Carál Ní Chuilín are all long gone? Without meaning to invoke Godwin’s law, how many years post 1945 was it ok to stop holding the sins of rogue neo-nazis against Germany?
  • What next? There’s a great outline here of what the legislative options are if the DUP follow the UUP out of the executive. And the short answer appears to be that there aren’t really any options. Yet. Legislation could be rushed through, but what that would or could look like may not be to the UUP’s taste. What then?
  • Can Nesbitt justify the hypocrisy? Mike Nesbitt has explained away his involvement in the Unionist Forum and his collaboration with paramilitary linked parties such as the PUP and UPRG as being part of his responsibilities, having to engage and speak with organizations who are linked with groups such as the UVF and the UDA, and to try and work with them, leading them down the path towards peaceful involvement… It’d a good answer but a politicians answer. Would he sit down with the PIRA and try to take them down the same path? What about 32CSM?
  • Mike Nesbitt has suggested that a referendum could be held for the people of Northern Ireland to essentially renegotiate the situation in Northern Ireland – what happens if the people of Northern Ireland return the same verdict as before – Nesbitt spoke in an interview with Slugger’s David McCann and suggested that this is something he would consider in the process of rebuilding the institutions and the trust required. Given how little real change in the political spectrum there has been in the last 8 or so years, is Nesbitt saying that if the people of Northern Ireland return the exact same decision that they took on the Good Friday Agreement, then he will return to the Executive with trust for Sinn Fein?

This one isn’t so much a question, more a case of me pointing out something I see as a bit unfair – d’Hondt – Danny Kennedy’s ministerial seat will go the DUP… I’m not widely read in this field (To be fair, I’m not even narrowly read in this field) but I’m an idealist, and here’s how I see it.

The DUP currently have 35% of the seats in the Assembly, but will have 45% of the ministerial seats. The DUP have 23% more seats than Sinn Fein (38 to 29) but will have 66% more ministerial seats than Sinn Fein. I’m just saying – that doesn’t seem totally fair.

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