Durkan's plan is 'fantasy politics' - Anderson

Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has accused SDLP leader Mark Durkan of indulging in "fantasy politics" after he suggested the power sharing arrangement at Stormont should end.

Ms Anderson was speaking after the Foyle MP used a speech at the Oxford Union on Friday night to argue that a strong Bill of Rights would replace the need for mandatory coalition between the parties.

The Sinn Fin MLA said she was “astounded” by Mr. Durkan’s comments.

“In this, the 40th anniversary year of the Civil Rights campaign, he is advocating the removal of the safeguards that were painstakingly secured in prolonged negotiations culminating in the Good Friday Agreement. Does Mark Durkan expect anyone to believe that unionists are ready to accept equality and the needs of the nationalist community as a normal part of politics here,” she said.

Ms Anderson also said unionist resistance to the introduction of Bill of Rights is evidence that the current requirements are still needed. “Mark’s latest foray into fantasy politics is a glaring example of the fact that he is more adept at sound bites than sound thinking. The SDLP leader’s assertion that the proposed Bill of Rights would afford sufficient protection for the rights of nationalists and republicans does not stand scrutiny.

“Unlike Mark, I was a member of the Bill of Rights Forum so I know from first-hand experience the kind of resistance we faced from the unionist parties in terms of securing a strong Bill.

“For someone who regularly gives the impression that he negotiated the GFA single-handedly, Mark obviously does not understand it. Just so that he is clear what it says about ministries I would point out that under the 1998 Act it clearly states that ministerial offices shall not exceed 10 and that if there is to be a new dept or an existing one dissolved it can only be done with approval by the Assembly passed with cross community support - so he clearly does not understand the GFA.

“When, not if, Sinn Fin has Policing and Justice transferred to the Executive that is the basis that it will have to be dealt with. No party has an absolute right to the Justice Ministry,” she said.