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It's time UUP and SDLP threw down the gauntlet

In the past, the question frequently asked was: "Are you men or mice?" And when the SDLP and UUP ministers receive the edict that is the proposed Programme for Government, the only question to Messrs Kennedy and Attwood should be: "Are you ministers or muppets?"

The revelation that a Programme for Government, including specific departmental pro- posals, has been agreed without the involvement of the departmental minister responsible appears inordinately contemptuous to say the least.

For some time, the UUP and the SDLP have bemoaned the fact that the Executive is a two-party carve-up, to their exclusion, but sadly neither party appears willing or able to take the next step - to leave the Executive.

Before the last election, the UUP appeared to signal an unwillingness to continue with the status quo, particularly in relation to their demand for a Programme for Government to be agreed prior to the allocation of ministerial offices.

But this principle, sadly, was quickly shelved after the election.

Now, again, the evidence is clear to all - Sinn Fein and the DUP are determined to ignore the smaller parties.

Therefore, I believe the UUP and SDLP have only one option - having tried for inclusion and failed miserably, both parties should either produce their own Programme for Government or leave the Executive and form the much-needed Opposition.

If both the UUP and SDLP roll over on this issue, they simply confirm their own irrelevance.

ULTONIAN

Portadown, Co Armagh

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