An SDLP/DUP alliance would punish Sinn Fein
Adroit moves by the UUP to quit their ministerial positions and go into 'Opposition' are undoubtedly framed to allow John McCallister to return to the party fold to keep the UUP's momentum going in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
However, proposals by David McNarry, of Ukip, and the DUP that Sinn Fein should be punished by being excluded from the Executive are likely to be counterproductive because Sinn Fein's supporters would then likely turn out in great numbers at the next election. There are arguably other better options. For example, as part of an electoral pact, the DUP could nominate Ukip's David McNarry as minister for regional development to benefit from Ukip transfers and vice-versa so as to eat into the UUP's vote.
It should be noted that the Northern Ireland Act 1998 does not (i) compel a nominating officer to put forward a member of their own party or of the Assembly but instead says they 'may' do so, and (ii) nor does it prohibit a nominating officer from putting forward a member of another political party, or even someone not elected. It states simply that: 'the nominating officer of the party on whose behalf the previous incumbent was nominated may nominate a person to hold the office who is a member of the party and of the Assembly'.
If the DUP really wanted to punish Sinn Fein, they could initiate an electoral pact with the SDLP to form a broad Christian alliance and then nominate a member of the SDLP as minister for regional development to boost their position against Sinn Fein.
The DUP electorate is intelligent enough to understand that, in a PR election, a vote for the DUP followed by one for the SDLP should increase the latter's Assembly seats at the expense of Sinn Fein. And a reciprocal arrangement would see the SDLP electorate vote to boost the DUP.
It would be easy knock such a suggestion, but these two parties already have much in common. Both are democrats and share broad Christian principles.
Bernard J Mulholland
Malone Road, Belfast