David Campbell: We need to reverse the DUP change at St Andrews to first minister appointment process

With regard to the letter from Carla Lockhart about the election of a first minister and deputy first minister (‘Critics of DUP are wrong about designation link to first minister,’ May 16):

By David Campbell
Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 11:58 am
David Campbell is a former chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party and was  a negotiator for them in the 1998 Belfast Agreement
David Campbell is a former chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party and was a negotiator for them in the 1998 Belfast Agreement

I am not sure what point she is trying to make but she misses the real point entirely.

Whilst the powers of both offices are equal, and must be exercised jointly the whole point of the titular difference was to reflect the respective allegiances of the main designations in any assembly, and thereby reflecting the community balance at large.

For unionism to be the largest designation and community, yet Northern Ireland to be represented by a nationalist first minister would and is anti-democratic and a nonsense yet this is what we now have due to the changes required by the DUP at St Andrews.

The other important aspect is that both elections required the cross-community assent of the assembly, irrespective of what parties the first minister (FM) and deputy first minister (DFM) were nominated from.

Perhaps Carla would do better to explain why the DUP meddled with this significant protection in the first place?

It has never been explained although most of us present at St Andrews felt it was to avoid DUP assembly members having to publicly vote for Martin McGuinness as DFM.

The latest manifestation of this mistake came when, as we are led to believe, virtually the entire DUP assembly and parliamentary team determined that the then DUP leader Edwin Poots should not nominate a first minister after Arlene Foster’s resignation; yet he went ahead and nominated Paul Givan and no vote on this was required to be taken by the assembly !

It is in the long-term interests of both communities in Northern Ireland, and in the wider interest of democratic representation for the St Andrews changes to revert to the original requirements of the Belfast Agreement which after all was agreed by popular referendum.

l David Campbell is a former chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party and was a negotiator for them in the 1998 Belfast Agreement