The DUP sowed seeds of this crisis at St Andrews

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

In 2006 at St Andrews, the DUP for totally selfish and unprincipled reasons made minor changes the Northern Ireland Act 1998 that sowed the seeds of our current political crisis.

The most fundamental change was the creation of the clause that means the largest party, by right, will hold the position of First Minister.

In no other democracy would this be a legislative requirement.

It may be the practical outworking of an election or the negotiated compromise creating a voluntary coalition but it is not a legislative requirement.

This singular amendment, made for purely party and some would say sectarian reasons, is at the root of all our problems.

It was this amendment that enabled Arlene Foster to dig her heels in and obstinately refuse to deal with the reality of her ineptitude and incompetence in office.

Mrs Foster, secure in the knowledge that the unionist community would rather have an allegedly corrupt unionist First Minister rather than any form of a Sinn Fein one, was therefore able to play fast and loose our very government.

Rather than accept any form of genuine accountability for the mess that is the Renewable Heating Initiative, Arlene Foster relied on the tribal headcount nature of Northern Ireland politics to cling on to power.

Therefore as we face the reality of the collapse of the institutions, due in no small part to what many perceive to be Arlene Foster’s personal arrogance, the question must be asked, is there a way out?

Since the collapse is mainly based on the failure of Arlene Foster to do the decent thing in stepping aside, as Peter Robinson did, whilst an investigation is carried out, then before any restoration or election the RHI issue must be resolved.

Again, unfortunately St Andrews comes back to haunt us.

The removal of the suspension legislation means that the obvious and wisest course of action, suspension of the Assembly, cannot take place. However by introducing a piece of emergency legislation the Secretary of State could move to protect the institutions, provide legislative cover for a time limited suspension, and then appoint a judge lead, time bound inquiry.

With a sense of urgency, such a move could be done, enabling the immediate suspension of the institutions, thus preventing the exhaustion of the seven day time limit for the appointment of a new Deputy First Minister.

In such a scenario, the Inquiry could complete its report, present it to a restored Assembly for debate, and then if no resolution is found an election can be called.

Regardless of what we, the public, may think, our current politicians, for a variety of reasons, arrogance not being the least, are incapable of sorting this mess out.

Allowing the institutions to rumble on even with an election will only make a bad situation worse.

Without a resolution of the RHI issue no stability or progress is possible.

Clearly any election run now, will be fought on “them and us”, Arlene has already written that script.

For that reason, the curse of St Andrews remains with us and will blight us for a generation to come.

Therefore the Secretary of State must step in and govern where our politicians have been unable and unwilling to.

Ultonian, Portadown