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Robinson challenges coalition critics

By Noel McAdam

Grammar schools would have been abolished and the number of councils reduced to seven against the wishes of the majority of parties had the DUP failed to join Sinn Fein in a coalition government, Finance Minister Peter Robinson insisted today.

In an article for today's Belfast Telegraph, the DUP deputy leader moved to challenge critics of his party's decision to share power with Sinn Fein.

He argued that the continuation of Direct Rule would not have been in the interests of unionism.

It would have meant Sinn Fein's preferred model of seven super councils being implemented and the abolition of successful grammar schools, he said.

The Direct Rule administration would also have pursued an all-Ireland agenda and imposed an Irish language act, he added.

Acknowledging the reservations and concerns of unionists who oppose government with Sinn Fein, Mr Robinson insisted his party will continue to press for changes to the way Stormont is run.

He said: "I am under no illusions about the past activities of many of those who are in the Assembly today and I know that they are programmed to act according to republican ideology."

But he argued that pushing republicans to end violence and criminality and give support to the police had "tipped the balance".

While people could carp and complain, the process also included sufficient safeguards to control any potential abuse.

The East Belfast MP said his party intends to formulate proposals to continue to keep pressure on republicans "to fulfil all the requirements of peace and democracy" and develop programmes to assist the innocent victims of terrorism.

He said he believed the new Executive is committed to the goal of making Northern Ireland a better place for everyone, while the Sinn Fein notion of a united Ireland by 2016 is rightly regarded as a "pipe dream".

Republicans might hanker after and indulge in the "make-believe" of a united Ireland "but few in private could believe it likely in their lifetimes", Mr Robinson added.

But challenging critics including supporters of his party, he said those who offer "no attainable alternative route to stability" had to be faced down rather than placated.


From Belfast Telegraph