Alliance Party General Secretary and North Down Candidate, Stephen Farry, has hit back at the comments of Mark Durkan, that it was ‘outrageous’ of Alliance to support a voluntary coalition, by accusing the SDLP of closed minds, and of wishing to entrench a sectarian state.
Dr Farry stated:
“The SDLP seem to have an arrogant attitude that it is either their way or no way. I am not sure that they have actually registered that the institutions in the Assembly did not work very well. An involuntary forced coalition does not provide the basis for collective responsibility,
joined-up government or accountability. Indeed, the current system is a recipe for Balkanised Government, with Ministers able to act independently of the cross-community views of the Assembly.
“The Agreement does provide the terms for its own Review. It was always envisaged that there would be discussions on how the Agreement can be made to work better in the light of experience.
“There are other ways of forming a government in a deeply divided society. A voluntary coalition would have to achieve a threshold of acceptability to ensure that it has cross-community support and participation. It would
protect the spirit of the Agreement, while avoiding the flaws in the current approach.
“Alliance has always been the party of power-sharing. This idea is something that Alliance has consistently advocated down through the years, and was indeed proposed by us during the Multi-Party Talks. It is an idea that has widespread support among a number of independent academics and commentators, and has been supported by other parties going back as far as Sunningdale.
“The SDLP seem to be intent in going to the wall in defence of a sectarian state where every citizen at birth must accept an essentialist label that defines them for life.
“This must be carried forward into Government. When people are told to think of themselves in terms of ‘them’ versus ‘us’, is little wonder that there is such conflict over territory and resources in this society?
“Ultimately, Alliance wants to see Northern Ireland evolve into something akin to a modern European liberal democracy not a backward-looking sectarian state.
“Many people assume that the 50:50 split between Unionists and Nationalists on the Executive was written into the Agreement. Rather it was a convenient fluke that arose from the first Assembly Election results. One of the safer post-election predictions is when it finally dawns upon the SDLP, that the new results create a 60:40 split in favour of Unionists, they will be a forefront in demanding change.”