26 May 2009

Major DUP Reshuffle in the North

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in the North revealed significant changes to it's present parliamentary representation. This will lead to a major reshuffle of some of the most senior Unionist positions in the Northern Assembly and could provide promotion chances for some of the party's younger generation.

DUP leader Peter Robinson (above), who is the First Minister of the Northern Administration, has announced that six of his party's Westminster MPs will give up their positions in Ulster and concentrate full-time on their work in the British House of Commons.

The Northern Environment Minister Sammy Wilson (left) and his party colleague Gregory Campbell (right), who is Minister for Culture, Arts & Leisure in the power-sharing administration of the Six Counties, will relinquish their current posts and concentrate in future on Westminster politics.

Just two of the DUP MPs - Mr. Robinson himself and either Nigel Dodds or Jeffrey Donaldson - will stay in ministerial positions in the power-sharing executive.

Iris Robinson (who is Peter Robinson's wife), David Simpson and Willie McCrea, who all chair committees in the Northern Assembly, will also step down from their positions. This large DUP reshuffle will put the stability of the power-sharing executive to the test.

The changes are made partly in anticipation of a change in British law, which still allows dual mandates. It is expected that a ban of such arrangements will be introduced in the UK in the near future, and Conservative Party leader David Cameron (left) has already stated that he would do exactly that if he wins the next general election (which could take place within the next twelve months). Cameron also said he would favour preventing Sinn Féin MPs from claiming their expenses and allowances at Westminster, unless they take their seats in parliament (which they currently don't, because they refuse to swear the 'Oath of Allegiance' to the Queen, which is demanded from every MP).

Dual mandates for political representatives, which were fairly common in the past, have been already abolished in Ireland and most other EU countries.

At present 16 of the North's Westminster MPs are also members of the Stormont Assembly.

The current media storm over British MPs' expenses claims is causing a massive controversy at Westminster, and in the wake of this frenzy, questions are also being asked about the validity of politicians holding two - and sometimes even three - official jobs and mandates at the same time.

There are currently only two exceptions to the North's double mandate 'rule': the sole Ulster Unionist MP Sylvia Hermon, and the SDLP's Eddie McGrady.
Five Sinn Féin MPs and two SDLP representatives at Westminster are also members of the Northern Assembly.

It is quite possible that the DUP's reshuffle will trigger similar moves in other parties, and this can only be good for the democratic process and politics as a whole.
People who hold public office for too long, or hold too many positions at the same time, tend to make the process of government slow and inefficient. Some new blood ever so often is necessary, for political bodies quite in the same way as it is for families and dynasties.

The Emerald Islander

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