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Jiggery-pokery saves Trimble's skin

We at Ulster Nation have been banging on for three years about the institutionalised sectarianism that is woven into the fabric of the Assembly and Executive as set up under the GFA. The first vote on November 2nd for the posts of First and Deputy First Minister makes our point clear. To elect the candidates, there had to be a 50% majority of both 'designated identities'. Although both candidates gained 100% of 'designated nationalists', they only got 49% of 'designated unionists', so the proposal to elect Trimble and Durkan failed, despite gaining 70% of the votes in the chamber! The Alliance Party's six votes were not worth a tinker's damn. They may as well have sat at home and watched the proceedings on television for all the use they were. This horrendous system has no place for 'designated others'.

David Ford, the new Alliance leader claims that his party were against this voting system right from the start, but if so, they kept very quiet about it. The only folk I can see who complained about this ridiculous system were us, Eamon McCann from the Socialist Workers' Party of Ireland and the independent Labour man, Cllr Mark Langhammer from Rathcoole. Ironically, the party that pushed hardest for this flawed system was the SDLP, which faced the loss of everything to Sinn Féin if the institutions fell and new Assembly elections took place.

A proper system would have had a weighted majority vote under which matters such as November’s two votes would have needed, for example, a two-thirds majority to pass. Under such a system, there is scope for parties and individuals from all sides to make voting alliances without having to compromise their ideas and principles. In addition, the farce of Alliance and NI Women's Coalition members having to 'redesignate' themselves as unionists and nationalists to make their votes count would be unnecessary.

Our Westminster and Leinster House overlords tell us that the rerun of the vote which took place on November 6th with the newly 'unionistified' Alliance members voting for Trimble and Durkan mean that we will all live happily ever after. Perhaps... Still, a bad smell of cynical opportunism is hanging over Parliament Buildings. David Trimble has been saved from the people. Principle has been flung out the window as the two governments have done their utmost to stave off an unwanted Assembly election. Democracy has its place, but it's the last thing our imperial overlords want just now. Those pesky voters might just bring the whole rotten house of cards down and that can't just be allowed to happen.

David Kerr

(November 2001)


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