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4 February 2010 Edition

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The Mitchel McLaughlin Column

Partnership government the only option

The Irish peace process was painstakingly nurtured with the view of coming up with mechanisms that could be embraced by all of the parties as a unique but workable form of governance. With the conclusion of the Good Friday Agreement a form of administration often referred to by the DUP as a 'mandatory' coalition was devised. Although this was prescriptive of a power-sharing Administration and allocation of ministries, there is no obligation on any party to nominate.
Therefore, the DUP mantra that it is in government with Sinn Féin under duress is not accurate – it is in government with us because, just like Sinn Féin, it received the necessary mandate to participate in the Executive and like Sinn Féin, it freely chose to exercise its democratic entitlement to nominate Ministers to the Executive. No one forced them to do so.
This being the case, it is incumbent that the DUP engage wholeheartedly in the partnership government it willingly entered. We hear much from their spokespersons of how committed they are to democracy and therefore, as a demonstration of this commitment, I would urge them to respect the democratic mandate of all the other parties and work in true partnership in government.
All peace processes require risk taking and strong leadership to promote and sustain progress. Democracy means respecting the decision of the electorate. The parties, in seeking a refreshed mandate, will have the opportunity in 2010 to appeal to the electorate and the people will decide. After the elections it is the task of the parties to deliver responsible government while respecting the democratic mandates received by each party.
Strong leadership and risk taking has successfully brought us to this point in the process, but the hope that existed following the agreement between Sinn Féin and the DUP under Ian Paisley has yet to be built upon by Peter Robinson.
Peter Robinson and indeed his senior colleagues in the DUP have a genuine opportunity to move the political process on the entire island of Ireland into a new era of peace and reconciliation by accepting that power sharing and equality will work to the benefit of all sections of our society.  No more tired rhetoric about mandatory coalition from unionists, no more hesitation; it time for genuine and wholehearted cooperation between partners for peace. 
Throughout the past 15 years many issues and obstacles have been overcome and resolved.  Some commentators and newspapers have remained aloof and cynical but the majority of people in Ireland and the Irish Diaspora have endorsed and applauded the achievements to this point. 
As others might say, 'much done, more to do'.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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