Alliance Party General Secretary Cllr Stephen Farry has argued that in their opposition to the proposal for a collective vote in the Assembly to endorse any new power-sharing Executive, the so-called moderate parties are missing the point. He said that such a measure was intended to ensure that all sides faced up to the reality of power-sharing.
Dr Farry stated: “Not for the first time, the so-called ‘moderate’ parties can’t see the wood for the trees. One of latest sources of complaint is the proposal that there must be a collective vote in the Assembly to endorse any new group of ministers put in place by d’Hondt, and that any individual MLA who refused to support the government would be barred from office.
“Elsewhere in the world, the notion is taken for granted that someone who wants to serve as a minister in a government should actually support it.
“The real point behind this measure is that it makes the DUP confront the prospect that they will have to work in partnership with Sinn Fein in any new administration, by stopping them ducking the prospect of having to raise their hands to support the election of particular Sinn Fein Ministers. They will not be allowed to take their places in government, supposedly in partnership with Sinn Fein, and at the same time be able to vote against Sinn Fein coming into Government.
“I have little doubt that, like us, the Ulster Unionists and SDLP do not like the fact that others have emerged as the largest parties. But under the rules that the so-called moderates negotiated back in 1998, the latter parties will be entitled to the top two posts, and other ministerial places.
“In the past, our MLAs have voted for Ulster Unionist and SDLP candidates for First and Deputy First Ministers, not because we agreed with their policies or had confidence in their abilities, but because they were the only parties able to assume the top two posts due to the popular vote. Democracy involves respect for mandates given by the people and consensus, and consensus involves doing things you do not like in the hope of long-term gain.
“This proposed measure by itself will do little to improve the lack of collective responsibility within the Executive, but it would be a step in the right direction.”