In my most recent OurKingdom piece, I suggested that the Stormont executive was having something of a stumbling start. In the meantime, things seem to have come a cropper completely.
The SDLP Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie told the Assembly last week that she was abolishing funding for community projects linked to the UDA. She was immediately accused of acting outside her powers by DUP Finance Minister Peter Robinson.
Sinn Fein assembly members initially accused Ritchie of continuing funding for the UDA. When it became clear she wasn’t doing that, Sinn Fein joined in the DUP’s attack.
Subsequently. the Executive voted to adopt minutes from a previous meeting that stated that Ritchie had agreed to come back to her colleagues before making a decision. Ritchie along along with the two Ulster Unionist ministers disputes this version.
I think the procedural objections to Ritchie’s decision are overdone, but they reflect the strength of the interests which seem to have been trying to bounce her into continuing UDA funding.
It’s too early to say what the long-term consequences will be, but there does seem to be a clear split between the majority parties on the executive, Sinn Fein and the DUP, on the one hand, and the SDLP and UUP on the other.
Slugger O’Toole comes into its own in this kind of situation, and Mick Fealty has a good summary of the current state of affairs. The BBC’s Jim Fitzpatrick has some thoughts that may shed some light on the DUP’s opposition to Ritchie. Splintered Sunrise has a useful critique of Sinn Fein’s position, of which Balrog mounts a staunch defence.