SF only party to back deal and UUP cautious

UUP Leader Mike Nesbitt with party members speak to the media after Prime Minister David Cameron  and Taoiseach Enda Kenny leave Stormont House before Christmas
UUP Leader Mike Nesbitt with party members speak to the media after Prime Minister David Cameron and Taoiseach Enda Kenny leave Stormont House before Christmas

Sinn Fein is the only Stormont party so far to have got resounding backing for the Stormont House Agreement from its national executive, it has emerged.

On Saturday the UUP put the proposals to its executive, but members said they wanted more detail before backing it.

Published just before Christmas, it details agreement to date on finances, parades, flags and dealing with the past.

The SDLP is still discussing the agreement internally and while Alliance leader David Ford will recommend it to his party, its executive has yet to meet to consider the matter.

The DUP has said the deal is positive for Northern Ireland’s finances, but the party executive has not yet met to consider the details either.

Sinn Fein’s national executive backed the agreement on December 29.

Several UUP sources agreed that the party had a very open and democratic discussion about the deal in the Park Avenue Hotel in east Belfast on Saturday.

“The leadership were not seeking endorsement for the deal,” one source said. “It was very open and democratic. There was no falling out.”

The source concluded the deal so far is “only a skeleton”.

A resolution by former leader Tom Elliott was passed which sought clarification on how the agreement would work out in practice.

Former party leader Lord Empey told the News Letter: “Previous experience has taught us that translating understandings into legislation can be fraught with danger and may not in actual fact reflect the agreements reached.

“For example, in 2006 the legislation flowing from the St Andrews Agreement contained provisions not even discussed at St Andrews – the identification of who should be first and deputy first minister.”

The creation of an official Opposition at Stormont is to be left to the Assembly alone to determine terms; but Lord Empey warned this must be grounded in primary legislation at Westminster to ensure its independence.

The financial package requires a lot more detail, he said, while concern was also expressed about asset sales and potential job losses.

Progress on parades, flags and the past will require careful monitoring in coming months, he added.