Unionists hope for hung Parliament

In my opinion column for the Irish World this week, I wrote that the DUP would try to avoid compulsory power-sharing and that they would hope for a hung Parliament at Westminster to facilitate this.

Events since seem to have borne this analysis out. DUP Deputy Leader Peter Robinson had this to say yesterday:

"The option of a voluntary coalition is open to the SDLP and while they are playing coy now, perhaps after the election, when their bravado is tempered by the electorate`s response, a higher level of reality might cause a rethink.

"If, however, Mark Durkan wants to force terrorists and criminals into government there will be no devolution.

"That deal is dead Mark, and you know it.

"Follow that strategy Mark, and you will deprive a whole community of devolved government. You will also be ensuring that the only achievable and attainable strategy for unionists to follow will be to improve the accountability and acceptability of Direct Rule by integrating Northern Ireland more closely and seamlessly into the Westminster structures."

SDLP leader Durkan has ruled out the voluntary coalition option:

He told DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson, who also mooted talks with the SDLP after May 5: "Peter, you might have been able to negotiate a new British exclusion law and a version of voluntary coalition with Sinn Fein in your December deal, but you will never get the SDLP to break the Agreement, and you know it."

If the SDLP position remains the same, the DUP will be pushing for ‘improved’ direct rule, which also happens to be an option in the Tory manifesto.

No wonder unionists are looking to the possibility of a hung Parliament.

Rival unionist candidates last night both hung out the prospect of a hung Parliament strengthening unionism’s hand in post-election negotiations.

The DUP’s Rev William McCrea and Ulster Unionist David Burnside – battling it out against each other in South Antrim – both believe a significantly reduced Labour majority is a real possibility after May 5.

Despite the evidence of most recent nationalist polls, they argue Labour might not have an overrall in the House of Commons working majority.

Perhaps  Burnside and McCrea should consider what a hung Parliament might mean for the wider United Kingdom. In any case, it’s looking an increasingly unlikely outcome this time around, which is just as well for the future of the Good Friday Agreement.






4 responses to “Unionists hope for hung Parliament”

  1. David Vance avatar

    Compulsory power-sharing is both undemocratic and morally offensive. Under NO circumstances should any democratic Party which commands the support of the majority of the electorate be FORCED into conceding power to other less popular parties. It’s another reason why I oppose PR.

  2. Tom Griffin avatar

    There are lots of precedents for power-sharing in divided societies. Its common all along the Catholic/Protestant faultline in Europe: Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, where the D’Hondt principle originates.
    It’s obviously not an ideal situation, but I’m not sure I agree with the emerging orthodoxy that the Agreement institutionalised sectarianism. That happened with partition.
    I would have thought that unionists could have opted for voluntary coalition at any time up to 1972, but chose not to do so.
    The behavior of the old Stormont demonstrated that institutionalised guarantees of the rights of nationalists were necessary. Unionists in return got their rights guaranteed by nationalist recognition of the consent principle.

  3. David Vance avatar

    I am no fan of Big Government of any kind! However whilst one can reasonably argue the pro’s and cons of power-sharing, I take issue with the idea that power-sharing with the representatives of gangsters and criminals is an acceptable proposition. It is not. Terrorists should be in prison, no matter how effective their Armani suited disguise. Sinn Fein, like the PUP, rule themselves OUT of any form of Government, but thanks to British mendacity and UUP weakness, they still got in. Never again?

  4. Tom Griffin avatar

    I think it’s now clear that unless the IRA stands down, there won’t be a new executive.
    What concerns me is this statement in the DUP manifesto: “Inclusive, mandatory coalition government which includes Sinn Fein under d’Hondt or any other system is out of the question.”
    The context is somewhat ambivalent, but that would seem to imply that even if the IRA stands down, the DUP will not accept that the largest nationalist party has an automatic right to be in Government.
    That’s certainly how Robert McCartney read it when he decided to stand down in North Down.
    A lot of nationalists will fear that the DUP are preparing new demands to avoid power-sharing if the IRA does stand down.
    However, as I said, the statement quoted above is ambivalent. While it appears unqualified, the DUP could still turn around and say that circumstances had changed if the IRA stands down, and go into Government under the D’Hondt mechanism.
    That, I think, would be the sensible course.

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