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29 November 2007 Edition

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The Mary Nelis Column

Mary Nelis

Mary Nelis

Brothers Glumm play Donkey

MONDAY’S vote in the Assembly, no matter what gloss the SDLP and the Ulster Unionists try to put on it, was an attempt by both those parties to overthrow the Good Friday Agreement and bring down the Assembly.
Both parties voted against their Executive colleagues in supporting an Alliance Party amendment rubbishing the Draft Programme for Government. No wonder Alliance leader David Ford could gleefully proclaim that the Executive was “yet again in crisis”.
It was the second time in a week that the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP voted against the Executive, in effect voting against not only their colleagues but against themselves. Clearly a case for the people in white coats.
The Alliance Party has been pushing the ‘united opposition’ line in Stormont for some time, having concluded that, despite the leg-ups from the NIO, they will always be the party of no consequence. The SDLP and Ulster Unionists have tied their ribbons to the tail of this donkey in the hope that the electorate will be fooled into thinking that the mandatory coalition at Stormont, which they negotiated, will perform the function of a normal government. It can’t because the Six Counties is not a normal political entity and a large section of the population recognises that reality. That’s why they voted for the consensus democracy as laid down in the Good Friday Agreement.
It is ironic that those who were among the principal architects of the mandatory coalition (the SDLP and the Ulster Unionists) should now want to disown their creation in the full knowledge that its eventual collapse will herald in another period of direct rule.
They had their bite of the cherry in the Programme for Government and allocation of the budget in the first Assembly, which did not impact on the electorate and was probably one of the reasons for their dismal performance in the election afterwards. Nevertheless, there is a common bond between these two parties which is reflected in their class interests, their enthusiasm in swearing the oath of allegiance to the British crown, and the acceptance of British ‘honours’, no doubt for services rendered.  
In the past, the SDLP and the Ulster Unionists have formed electoral alliances to defeat Sinn Féin candidates in various elections and indeed it’s not so long ago that Eddie McGrady proposed that the party should enter into a power-sharing arrangement with unionists specifically to exclude Sinn Féin. Of course, that was before the SDLP electoral meltdown and their overtures to Fianna Fáil, a move designed by both parties to maintain the status quo.
The debacle in Stormont on Monday will only add to the confusion among members of both parties. Jim Nicholson MEP has accused his Ulster Unionist Party colleagues in the Assembly of “headline grabbing” and has ruled out any pact with the SDLP while they continue to play fast and loose with Fianna Fáil.
Meanwhile, the Brothers Glumm – ,SDLP leader Mark Durkan and UUP head-man Sir Reg Empey – need to stop whingeing and playing Donkey. It is propositions the people want, not opposition.

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