Ukip will attempt to completely dismantle Stormont’s mandatory coalition system of government and remove any need for their to be a cross-community Executive, the party has told the News Letter.
The party’s Northern Ireland leader, David McNarry, said that such a change would produce better government.
Pressed on whether such an issue would be a deal-breaking issue in any negotiations, Mr McNarry said that it would be in Ukip’s “top 10” demands.
That means that it is unlikely to be a deal-breaker and, even if it was, it is highly unlikely that any putative Prime Minister would agree to such a demand.
Nevertheless, the party’s stance represents a significant move by a unionist party, which is now adopting a similar stance to the TUV. In recent years Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt have explicitly stated that although they want to see Stormont reformed and an opposition created, they believe that a cross-community Executive will still be necessary.
Mr McNarry said that the change “may take some refining and require some gutsy, hard-argued negotiations” but said that because mandatory coalition “isn’t working” it needs to be replaced.
He said: “Ukip will argue for a review of voluntary coalition in the Assembly with whoever forms the next UK government after the general election. The experiment of enforcing opposites to work with each other has created tensions, poor and painfully slow decision-making and sluggish, non-delivering of government measures in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
“The losers have been the people of Northern Ireland shackled to a mandatory coalition of five parties which has had the effect of creating ineffective cantons of party-controlled departments instead of a joined-up government across the Executive.”
The move comes after the DUP set out some of its key demands ahead of any possible negotiations about supporting Labour or the Conservatives in the event of a hung Parliament.
In an article for The Guardian, the DUP’s Westminster leader, Nigel Dodds, said that the party was setting out its demands now in a bid to avoid fostering “a culture of backroom deals being cut only after people have voted”.
He said the DUP was “committed” to the Stormont Executive and added: “Politically we would not seek to exploit for narrow and selfish reasons any leverage at Westminster over devolved matters.”
He listed defence spending, the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ and border controls as crucial policies if the DUP is to support one of the two big parties.
But the TUV’s Richard Cairns said Mr Dodds’ article showed that the DUP is not prepared to demand an end to mandatory coalition. He said: “Remember – Mr Dodds was only able to write this article because voters across the UK have the opportunity to remove the current government and replace it with another one. Voters in Northern Ireland should have that same basic democratic right.”