“…putting manners on the DUP means a huge jump towards voluntary coalition”

Brilliant as ever from Newton Emerson, on the likely terms of any upcoming ambitious negotiations (£):

It is easy enough to see how Stormont should be tweaked to put unionists and republicans on a more solidly equal footing. The dreaded ‘deputy’ should be dropped from the title of deputy first minister, as Sinn Féin has long proposed.

Petitions of concerns should be abolished (if the next election outcome does not make them redundant), committees should be opposition led – this list is long and well-known at the assembly and executive.

However, DUP sources have already indicated they will not rejoin office on significantly different terms to St Andrews. So new arrangements would have to be imposed by London, albeit with the fig-leaf of other Stormont parties concurring.

If that is to be a credible threat, one of those new arrangements must remove the DUP’s nuclear option, by allowing the next-largest unionist party to fill its shoes if it walks out.

But that would require depriving Sinn Féin of the same ability – meaning its walk-out this week, for example, would simply have put the SDLP in its place.

In other words, putting manners on the DUP means a huge jump towards voluntary coalition. Is that acceptable to nationalists and republicans, after generations of clawing their way towards mandatory coalition?

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