I started this piece with the intention to put it on Slugger, but it has found its way to the News Letter and has been published today (will add link when available).
A man was murdered by the IRA on the streets of Belfast. Peter Robinson called the murder of Kevin McGuigan a ‘watershed’ moment yet the DUP response amounted to boycotting the Executive. Who will notice or care if an executive which isn’t doing anything anyway doesn’t meet for a while? Now Sinn Fein chairman Bobby Storey was arrested in connection with murder. The DUP response is to seek an adjournment of the Assembly.
Is that it?
Neither an Executive boycott nor an Assembly adjournment removes Republicans from government.
The political wing of a still armed and active IRA retains Ministerial posts because the DUP – and the DUP alone among Unionists – partner them.
Suspending the Assembly, as Peter Robinson demanded yesterday, does not change that reality.
TUV isn’t hung up on keeping the Assembly but let’s consider some practical outworkings from the DUP proposal. If Mr Robinson’s suggestion is agreed his Ministers, along with Sinn Fein’s, will remain in government. Only now there will be no Assembly to hold Ministers to account. Nor, interestingly, will there be any committee meetings. Meaning that the ongoing inquiry into NAMA will be suspended as well.
What is needed isn’t an Assembly suspension. It’s the removal of the representatives of an armed and active IRA from government.
The events of recent days show that both decommissioning and Sinn Fein/IRA support for the police was a con.
Mr Nesbitt on announcing his party’s exit from the Executive claimed they wanted to go back to the 1998 vision.
Going into opposition was the only viable alternative for the UUP; they have meekly sat as doormats (along with the SDLP and Alliance) in the Executive since 2007. In terms of attempting to normalise politics through forcing the opposition issue they will find support.
However, the 1998 vision that Mr Nesbitt has alluded to does not include opposition or the right to change your government. It does include Sinn Fein/IRA in government. That 1998 vision, with the St Andrews post-it note attached, is the key problem to providing sustainable, durable and democratic devolution for Northern Ireland.
A system which teeters on the brink of collapse because one of the parties of government is linked to murder is neither democratic or capable of delivering anything approaching normal politics.
Our and future generations deserve good government. They deserve a government they can change at the ballot box and one which is held accountable by an opposition which can form an alternative government after elections. Whatever ones opinion is on the Belfast / St Andrew’s Agreement, there has to come a point the need for fundamental change is recognised.
The fact that a murder linked to a party of government has given new impetus to this issue should cause every DUP MLA to search their conscience.
Richard is vice chairman of TUV; and an advisor to Jim Allister MLA.