Unionism is in no mood to find itself sidelined from representative politics and sliding toward a democratic deficit all because of a republican exclusion order to wind up the Assembly.
Therefore in the event of enforced direct rule, collective unionism must stand firm in demanding a ‘Half an Assembly System’ without legislative power. Unionism must also shake up the government by pressing hard for a voluntary coalition to replace the unworkable and now redundant mandatory experiment.
Unionism must throttle backwards the forward forages of Sinn Fein to downgrade or even erase our physical presence and our constitutional identity with our nation state.
Unionism was promised by the great and the good that Sinn Fein were trustworthy and they would play an equitable role in powersharing. The past 10 months of obstructive arm wrestling and nauseating prevarication over invented red lines have demonstrated the complete contrary.
Now unionism must act decisively by convincing the wretched wet waverers in the NIO that it will be the ordinary law-abiding democrats who will be the losers if Westminster plans to govern without a viable attachment to a Stormont outlet.
Direct rule with three fly by night ministers in charge of nine departments cannot effectively perform the duties detailed to an Assembly. Nor should those MLAs willing to work be shuttled out into abdicating their responsibilities just because Sinn Fein are intent on busting devolution.
A ‘Half an Assembly‘ is better than no Assembly at all and it could find a way to circumnavigate around total direct rule on a participating partnership basis. A short-term solution yes but it would allow MLAs active participation and performance in attending to both their representative and constituency duties.
It would work this way, the Stormont staff and advisory services would facilitate MLAs. Committees can be constituted to meet with and scrutinise direct rule ministers. Discussions, debates, challenges, approvals and endorsements can be channelled to the ministers through the committee system. Here’s the rub, because this is all the fault of Sinn Fein! MLAs’ pay is cut by 40%.
Those choosing to resign can be replaced without a by-election. Constituency offices can be open on a part-time basis with staff contracts honoured. The secretary of state would strike a time-frame resulting in one of the following; the introduction of a voluntary coalition government or the reinstatement of mandatory powersharing or the implementation of full-blooded direct rule. The outcome would be finalised by March next year.
The people should not be losers, most given a say would wish to see their MLAs at work in Stormont doing their best for the country. Irrespective of what Sinn Fein think, Northern Ireland is and will remain British. Unless a better proposition is on the table, then ‘Half an Assembly’ is better than none.