Unity call at UUP manifesto launch
The Assembly has failed to connect with the public and needs "game-changing" reforms to improve its performance, Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott has declared.
Launching his party's Assembly election manifesto, he said the DUP and Sinn Fein had effectively carved up power, creating a divided Executive.
He highlighted the UUP's past success in helping establish power-sharing but accused the DUP of manipulating old fears to secure political gains.
Mr Elliott, however, also argued it was possible to radically improve the performance of the Stormont administration. He used the setting of Belfast's Linenhall Library, and its collection on the political history of the Troubles, to chart how far society had travelled, despite what the UUP condemned as the evil murder of constable Ronan Kerr.
Mr Elliott said of power-sharing: "The DUP did everything it could to undermine our efforts, telling everyone that the Belfast Agreement could not survive and should not survive. Assuring unionists that there were 'no circumstances' under which it would ever be acceptable to have Sinn Fein in government."
He added: "Every decision that the Ulster Unionist Party has taken has been taken for the best interests of Northern Ireland and for all of the people of Northern Ireland. We haven't done anything for personal interest or electoral advantage - no-one could argue with that. We have done it because it was the right thing to do in the circumstances.
"But there would not now be an Assembly or a devolved government had it been left to the DUP. So they needn't try and kid themselves, or kid anyone else for that matter, that their carve-up with Sinn Fein is anything other than a cynical manipulation of old fears for short-term electoral advantage.
"The DUP and Sinn Fein may be happy with stalemate, veto and an 'us-and-them' agenda - but the UUP has a broader vision than that. A vision which unites us rather than leaves us as polarised as ever."
Mr Elliott also accused DUP leader Peter Robinson of adopting some UUP proposals. He said: "I note that on Monday Peter Robinson was promising the same reforms we have been talking about since 2007, promising to address the Sinn Fein First Minister problem that the DUP itself created at St Andrews, and promising movement on agreeing a Programme for Government before the Executive is appointed.
"Well, isn't it just a pity that Mr Robinson didn't tackle any of these issues when he had the opportunity to do so?"