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It's time to praise, not criticise, our first ministers

THERE has been much talk in the news of a strained relationship between Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Ministers.

The focus of the strain is the First Minister's decision to exercise his veto on the controversial Maze/Long Kesh site. This has obviously caused annoyance and concern for the Deputy First Minister and the bloc he represents.

Consociationalism (power-sharing) provides for segmental autonomy, providing for each bloc in a divided society to exercise their group autonomy as they see fit.

This includes a group veto, a veto both groups (in Northern Ireland's case, unionists and nationalists) hold and are entitled to.

This is vital in any pluralist society, where collective decision-making is unlikely to take root.

The Maze/Long Kesh project obviously caused concerns within the unionist community and the elected leader of this electoral bloc exercised his right to veto, putting the project on hold.

Consociationalism provides for democracy in the case of divided societies. Decision-making can present problems as a result of a plural society, leading to delays, lack of decisions, or failure to make a decision at all.

What matters most is that engagement and governance continues as envisaged in the Belfast Agreement.

The First and Deputy First Ministers, therefore, have to be praised for continuing to work with one another in order to deliver and act for those they represent.

AREND LIJPHART

Belfast

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