Belfast Telegraph

Anti-McGuinness call at TUV launch

The prospect of Martin McGuinness as first minister can be ended at a stroke if unionist parties agree not to serve with him, Jim Allister has declared.

Launching his party's election manifesto, the Traditional Unionist Voice leader challenged the DUP and Ulster Unionists to put the issue to bed once and for all by making clear they would not take the post of deputy first minister if Sinn Fein topped the May poll.

Promising to fight for changes to Stormont's system of mandatory coalition power-sharing, Mr Allister said the current arrangements - where all main parties sit in government by right with no official opposition - were inherently undemocratic.

"More of the same is not good enough for Northern Ireland," he said. "The people of Northern Ireland must not continue to be second-class, third-class democrats denied the rights of anyone else.

"You know you have to go to North Korea to find a country where you are not allowed to have an opposition. Well, we're not North Korea, we're Northern Ireland and it's vital and essential that we inject back into our system those fundaments of democracy and then we might begin to get a system that will work."

Mr Allister claimed the DUP sat back and failed to oppose changes in the 2006 St Andrews Agreement which altered how the first and deputy first minister are elected, with the largest party taking the post instead of the largest community designation - unionist or nationalist.

"But the answer does lie in their hands as well," Mr Allister said of the DUP.

"Because if McGuinness should be eligible to be first minister he can never be first minister unless the DUP propose a deputy to him so I will repeat the challenge that the DUP will not answer - are they willing here and now to join with other unionists in committing that if McGuinness should be eligible to be first minister they will block him by refusing to nominate a deputy?

"Because it being a joint office, McGuinness can only take office as first minister if a unionist is proposed as his deputy and that's the question the DUP don't want to answer, it's a question also for the Ulster Unionists and I pitch it to both of them: are they prepared to join with us in saying that no unionist in those circumstances will be proposed as deputy to serve under McGuinness?

"If they are, then at a stroke we can put to bed any threat of McGuinness as first minister because he'll never cross the door of that office unless unionists, as the DUP did in 2007, open the door for him, by proposing a deputy."

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