Editor's Viewpoint: UUP tactics could threaten Assembly
When the Hillsborough agreement was announced, it was recognised that it was not entirely the finished article.
However, given the effort required to secure the deal, there was a general belief that Northern Ireland’s |politicians would push ahead to ensure the return of policing and justice powers to local hands, effectively completing the devolution process.
Yet it appears that the politicians are determined to demonstrate just how dysfunctional the power-sharing arrangements are and how easily every policy decision can be stymied. No decision is ever taken on its own merits, but instead is seen as an excuse for political bartering. With major decisions requiring clear cross-community support it is easy to see how effective governance can be blocked.
The latest party to demand a policy favour in return for its support is the Ulster Unionist Party. It wants Sinn Fein and the DUP to agree to sort out the chaos in education before it will agree to back devolution of policing and justice.
There is a major flaw in the UUP tactic. By withholding its vote on devolution of policing and justice at Stormont next Tuesday, the party is threatening the very stability of the power-sharing institutions and again holding local politics up to ridicule, especially among potential foreign investors who care little about the |nuances of the issues involved.
The Orange Order may also play a role in the |devolution issue as the institution will decide this weekend if it will back proposals from a working party on how to resolve contentious parades. But, whatever its influence on unionist MLAs, it has no votes to cast. The UUP has votes and should use them in a positive manner come next Tuesday.
The power-sharing administration is not ideal and has not worked well to date, but it is the best political solution available and has to |be sustained and encouraged.