A Westminster election: The Irish dimension

In my OurKingdom piece last week, I suggested that an early Westminster election would be highly inconvenient for the Stormont Assembly, with the new executive still bedding down and major issues still unresolved.

Malachi O’Doherty points to a more cynical aspect of this in his latest Hearts and Minds spot. All of the local parties have chosen ministers with one eye on building up candidates for marginal Westminster seats, and an early election may frustrate those calculations.

Ian Paisley Senior came out of the Labour Party conference confident that there will be no October election. Well, our local concerns will not weigh in the decision; they never do.

But if our parties are going to treat the executive primarily as a runway for the take off of political careers into Westminster, voters here might feel a little used and have something to say about that themselves. (BBC Northern Ireland)

Perhaps the most interesting question is how a Westminster election would affect the various realignments currently underway within both political traditions.

On the unionist side, there has been some talk of a merger between the the DUP and the Ulster Unionists. This has provoked some interesting thoughts from David Trimble’s former circle of advisors. Alex Kane and Steven King are sceptical, while as Splintered Sunrise notes, Eoghan Harris is firmly in favour.

For a newly elevated Fianna Fáil Senator, Harris is strangely silent about the possibility of a Fianna Fáil merger with the SDLP. Kane regards such a move as unhelpful, while King is more sanguine, seeing it as primarily a threat to Sinn Féin.

Over at the Dreaming Arm blog, Dr Phil Larkin also sees a Fianna Fáil-SDLP alliance being well placed to challenge Sinn Féin’s All-Ireland credentials. Brian Feeney of the Irish News takes a similar view, although he differs in his analysis of Fianna Fáil’s ultimate ambitions for the North.

An early election is likely to preclude any further formal developments between Fianna Fáil and the SDLP. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see how their flirtation would affect the SDLP’s support from other southern parties in a campaign situation.

It’s possible that there could be a limited electoral pact between the DUP and the Ulster Unionists in marginal constituencies, most obviously South Belfast and Fermanagh-South Tyrone. Anything else is a much longer-term proposition, especially if Dr Paisley stands again in North Antrim.






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