Belfast Telegraph

Another Northern Ireland election could bring violence to streets, warns UUP's Doug Beattie

But direct rule could allow space for agreement, says MLA

By Jonny Bell

UUP MLA Doug Beattie has warned that another election could bring violence onto the streets of Northern Ireland, but direct rule could give the parties room to find agreement on restoring devolution.

On Monday Sinn Fein warned if no agreement was made before Friday, there would have to be a return to the polls just weeks after the previous vote and potentially the third election in the space of little more than 12 months.

James Brokenshire can only call an election, as laid out in law, however, he has said he will seek legislation from Westminster to enable rates bills to be paid. There have been warnings that direct rule could be introduced by "drip feed".

Speaking on Stephen Nolan's Radio Ulster show, UUP MLA and military veteran Doug Beattie warned another election could be divisive and violent.

We are in dangerous times Doug Beattie

 

He said the last election gave the parties a mandate and told them to set up a power-sharing Executive

"And it is a failure of leadership if that is not set up," he said.

"I do fear an election. It will be incredibly sectarian, because we will just go to a headcount. We are so entrenched now and we are getting so divided and the language is getting so much more vile than it was the last time around."

Mr Beattie said that while it was true his party could lose more seats in the event of another poll, he did not fear "an election for an election's sake".

"I fear an election for what it will do to Northern Ireland - it will make us more sectarian society, which is not a good thing," he said.

"And we all know that sectarian elections can become more violent. As people get entrenched in their positions when things become sectarian headcounts there is a tendency for a vacuum and people come out on the streets to fill that vacuum.

"I am genuinely fearful of that."

"I am giving an opinion and that's all it is - one man's opinion. If you listen to the language we are heading for a headcount election, the two sides are getting further and further apart and the language will get harder and harder.

"People will say I am trying to protect the party's interests and they can believe that if they want but I genuinely believe listening to the talks, listening to whats being said, we are in dangerous times."

He said no one was "sleep walking" into an election but that they could be "sleep walking into direct rule".

"And that could give us room for an agreement," he added.

"The talks are flat, they are direction-less, there is no engine room, no narrative and we do need that space to find agreement."

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