Anger mounts over issue of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness in top job
The possibility of Martin McGuinness becoming First Minister following the Assembly election has returned to the campaign, with Alliance accusing the DUP, Sinn Fein and Ulster Unionists of “tribalism” over the issue.
Sinn Fein would have to emerge as the single largest party in the poll, which would involve a huge defeat for the DUP.
Most commentators conclude it is unlikely the current Deputy First Minister — who is co-equal with First Minister Peter Robinson — will take his power-sharing partner’s title this time.
After signalling the election would be fought on ‘bread and butter’ issues, Mr Robinson last week warned that the prospect of the self-confessed former IRA second-in-command becoming First Minister was an issue on the doorsteps.
Alliance East Antrim representative Geraldine Mulvenna said the election campaign must focus on the real issues people are concerned with and not turn into a tribal battle-a-day.
“I am deeply annoyed that other parties like the DUP, UUP and Sinn Fein are making this election about who will be First Minister.
“These parties always try and say they are focusing on real issues, but when it comes down to it they can never resist resorting to the tribal battle about who will be First Minister,” she said.
“The public will not tolerate tribal debates about who should be First Minister or who is trying to block who.
“Such behaviour will not create jobs or deliver better services — it is simply a negative and divisive issue,” she added.
“There are real concerns about public services and people want parties that have ideas on delivering improvements and greater value for money.
“Alliance is prepared to be radical and deliver North-South co-operation on some health services to ensure more efficiency and the same high standard of service.
“The tribal battle-a-day mentality that often surfaces is absolutely unacceptable.
“People want constructive politics and politicians who will work together to build consensus and tackle problems. Alliance is leading change, delivering positive politics and offering solutions.
“Politicians should listen to the public and ensure that real issues are addressed to prevent this election becoming another battle of the politics of the past.”
Jim Allister has 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 poll.
The Traditional Unionist Voice leader claimed: “Because it is 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?”