Letter: First minister rule changes agreed at St Andrew's come back to bite the DUP
I watched the “enthronement” of Michelle O'Neill at Stormont last weekend (some newspapers described her as “head of state”!).
She secured the position because Sinn Fein is the largest party at Stormont after the 2022 elections.
But that's not the full story.
The current rules determining who would be first and deputy first ministers are the result of changes made to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement at the St Andrew's negotiations in 2006.
This change was pushed for by the DUP, who were then the largest party and couldn't envisage a time when they would not be number one.
They used this change at subsequent elections to argue that if you didn't vote for the DUP “you will get Martin McGuinness as first minister”.
That in itself was ironic as both he and Dr Paisley became the “chuckle brothers” but the change worked well for them as they were able to frighten unionists to vote for them election after election.
The rules that were negotiated in 1998 by the Ulster Unionist Party were simple: the largest party in the largest designation (either unionist or nationalist) would provide the first minister.
At the 2022 assembly election, the largest designation was unionist.
Irony of ironies, had the DUP left the rules alone and not changed them at St Andrew's, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson would have been first minister and Michelle O'Neill deputy first minister!
So the DUP facilitated this rule change to suit themselves and now it has come back to bite them.
Talk about being hoist by your own petard!
Lord (Reg) Empey, Palace of Westminster, London