Sinn Féin and the DUP may not agree on much, but one thing they do agree on is the exercise and maintenance of political power.
Theirs is a murky, unpleasant world, an agreed apartheid where each is content to wield influence and control over their own ghettoised fiefdoms, and where any opposition is deemed at least unmutual and at worst an affront to peace loving people.
Those who try to speak truth to power are sidelined or ignored – or far worse. Those who try to question the prevailing wisdom of the fractured, divided body politic are condemned to administer the governance of the people according to the rules laid out for them by Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson – Number Two and Number Three. Or so they would have you believe.
That the UUP and SDLP could form an opposition in Northern Ireland is established fact. Though it would take some re-engineering of the principles of the system of administration, it is clear that Mike Nesbitt and Alasdair McDonnell could withdraw Danny Kennedy and Mark Durkan from the executive and take up substantial opposition positions in the Assembly – altogether creating an opposition of 33 members in the bloated 108 member chamber. For sure, the opposition would face challenges and would be deeply divided itself – but that would in itself create tremendous political power and authority for the assembly.
The primary losers in such a changeover would be the DUP – whilst members of that party have fully drunk the Flavor-Aid, a few of their own seats could be in some jeopardy if it became clear that a Unionist voice unsullied by adminstration of justice arm in arm with Sinn Féin. I don’t seek to argue that DUP voters are likely to be interested in a wholesale return to the Official Unionists – simply that unionism without a seat in the executive is not the forbidding place it might seem to be. To borrow a phrase from the DUP’s own vernacular in advance of the Belfast Agreement referendum – many more unionists might look at the political impasse and conclude that it might be right to say no.
The alternative – the status quo, means an increasingly irrelevant SDLP and UUP, with all the trappings that irrelevance brings to electoral results.
‘Be seeing you.