St Andrews accord needs to be revisited in wake of RHI scandal: Kinahan

UUP MP Danny Kinahan.   Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
UUP MP Danny Kinahan. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

Ulster Unionist MP Danny Kinahan has called for the joint election of future First and deputy First Ministers to be reintroduced in the wake of the ongoing RHI scandal.

The South Antrim MLA said London needed to move to restore the integrity of the Stormont institutions.

Mr Kinahan argued that fundamental revisions of the publicly-mandated Belfast Agreement, which were negotiated and then legislated for, following the St Andrew’s talks ten years ago, needed to be reversed.

“I believe Westminster needs to take action to start the process of restoring faith in the integrity of the institutions,” said Mr Kinahan.

“That includes reversing some of the provisions of the St Andrews Act of 2007, which changed fundamental safeguards in the Good Friday Agreement that had been endorsed by the public in a referendum,” he added.

Among the changes were that the largest and second largest parties in the Assembly separately nominate the First and deputy First Ministers.

Mr Kinahan said this had been a fudge to protect the DUP from the embarrassment of having to enter into a joint office with Sinn Féin.

“In 1998, we ensured the First Minister and deputy First Minister were elected on a single, joint ticket, reflecting the joint nature of the roles,” he said.

“The DUP had that changed by Westminster to save Ian Paisley’s blushes as otherwise he would have had to support Martin McGuinness as dFM.

“That is the root cause of the problem, the inability of the two parties to work together. It over-rides the will of the people, ensures Assembly Elections are fought not on the issues, but on a raw sectarian headcount, and holds us back from our vision of a post-sectarian society.

“I shall continue to raise this problem, and the misuse of the Petition of Concern at every opportunity, including at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

“The people of Northern Ireland deserve leadership that recognises the concept of the greater good. It is sadly incumbent on Westminster to take steps to help make that happen,” Mr Kinahan concluded.