March 17, 2016

Would Unionism allow a Sinn Fein First Minister?

Cartoon by Ian Knox
Alex Kane said on BBC Hearts and Minds:
"And what happens when unionism is in trouble? It harks back to the mantra of united we stand, divided we allow McGuinness to become First Minister. 
So up pops Nigel Dodds to insist that unity is the answer to unionist prayers, then up springs David McNarry to say that unity must embrace the TUV, Orange Order, Conservatives and anyone who has a red, white or blue shirt in their wardrobe. 
The reality, of course, is that unionist unity won’t work, because unionist unity is merely a euphemism for a sectarian headcount: and sectarian headcounts will, sooner rather than later, kill off devolution. 
What unionism needs to do is promote a coherent and attractive argument in favour of the Union: an argument that presents the Union as valuable in its own right rather than as merely the next-best-option to Irish unity."
Fionnuala O'Connor said:
"No unionist will agree, it’s said, to be Deputy First to Martin McGuinness as First Minister. Now that’s hardly the spirit of abiding by the ballot-box. Worse, a Belfast Telegraph poll of unionist MLAs revealed the belief that only a unionist can be First Minister. Since unionists are the majority, they must have the top post. So the ballot-box is only to be respected if it delivers the right verdict - if unionists come out on top. 
But what makes this daft as well as undemocratic is the job in question. The top post is a job-share. Few unionists seem to realise, or can’t admit they know, that the Office of First and Deputy First Minister - Offimdiffim as we are meant to call it - is a joint office. Offimdiffim, as befits the name, is a pantomime horse - with a head at each end. Or two rear ends, the cynical might say."
She continued:
"First minister and deputy first minister have equal powers. Neither can move without the other. First Minister McGuinness would have exactly the same powers as he has at the minute, and exactly the same powers as a unionist Deputy First. Yet some seem prepared to bring the whole thing down for a myth – the comfort blanket that the First Minister is the Boss and “the deputy” is just that.
She also said:
"The title of First Minister tempted Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson - and David Trimble before them - into pretending pre-eminence..."
And also:
"Sinn Fein is not in Stormont by some dreadful mistake. Their voters put them there. Only Jim Allister believes that they are still Sinn Fein/IRA."
Lindsay Allen said:
"Of course, the DUP reject that and maintain that the real problem is that the traditional working class unionist population is so disillusioned with politics that it is simply not turning out to vote. 
Whatever the reason, the prospect of Sinn Fein becoming the largest party in next year’s Assembly and Martin McGuinness therefore stepping into the role of First Minister of Northern Ireland, is the stuff of nightmares for Unionist politicians."
He continued:
"And it raises again the old sectarian divisions which we thought the so called, “bread and butter issues” of unemployment, education and the recession had pushed to the bottom of the agenda. It hasn’t gone away you know. The fear of the Other Side is alive and well in both communities here and ironically it is the prospect of a Republican dominated Assembly that may well reenergise the Unionist vote."

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