An ex-MLA who had been one of the leading voices in calling for an Opposition at Stormont says the current deal-making around who will sit in Stormont’s government is just a normal state of affairs for democracy.
John McCallister – an ex-UUP and NI21 MLA who lost his South Down seat in the May 6 election – was speaking as it remained uncertain who the new ministers would be in this latest Stormont Executive – with an especially big question mark still hovering over the justice ministry.
The SDLP and UUP have opted to eschew their entitlements to one ministerial seat each on the Executive, while the Alliance Party also looks set to turn down its chance to take control of the justice ministry again – a role which requires the support of both nationalists and uniomnists.
Instead, the DUP and Sinn Fein had been in talks with other candidates for the job – but it is understood that if a full Executive is not appointed by the end of Wednesday, the Province could face the prospect of fresh elections.
“This is something slightly – oddly enough – normal,” said Mr McCallister.
“My take on a lot of this is [that] this is what happens when you use coalition governments. It’s a good thing – they have negotiations to see who will go in and who’s entitled. It’s finding people you can work with.”
He said that in the Welsh Assembly, they had faced a similar wrangle recently over the appointment of their first minister.
However, Mr McCallister added that the two main parties would be “mad” to allow any impasse to go so far that new elections are called.
“The DUP and Sinn Fein comprehensively won the election,” he said.
“Elections are usually expensive to run. No-one who won 38 and 28 seats [as the DUP and Sinn Fein did respectively] goes to another election again. It’s just not going to happen.”
He said it is possible that the DUP end up taking the justice seat, and that in return “Sinn Fein will get to pick something that the Dups really would’ve liked, like finance and the economy, or education”.