A DUP bid to abolish the main cross-border political institution of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement -- part of an admitted larger plan to collapse the Agreement itself -- failed in the Belfast Assembly this week.
The motion questioned whether the North-South Ministerial Council is “of any value to the people of Northern Ireland”. It was brought amid increasing strain in the Six-County administration ahead of European elections in June.
The motion did not pass as it failed to gain sufficient cross-community support.
But speaking after the motion was defeated, the DUP’s Lord Morrow told the Assembly that his party was determined to bring about the “demise” of the Belfast [Good Friday] Agreement.
Morrow claimed the North-South Ministerial Council had not achieved anything of any significance - “nothing to the nationalist community, nothing to the unionist community, nothing to the Irish Republic and nothing to the well-being of Northern Ireland’’.
“One must ask the question - why under the living sun should it survive? Particularly in this economic climate in which we are in,” Lord Morrow said.
The SDLP warned there were elements in the DUP that wanted to recreate an image on the island of the old politics they knew and loved.
Alex Attwood also accused DUP chairman Lord Morrow of letting the “cat out of the political bag” after he admitted seeking to collapse the Good Friday Agreement.
Morrow also claimed that the 26-County Government could not afford the cost of the council. “Since the demise of the Celtic Tiger things have changed dramatically.
“In fact they are not going to be the same any more and we hear a lot of bleating now from across the Border because people find it difficult to live, and to pay the unaffordable expenses and prices that they are asked to and escape that virtual bankruptcy,” he said.
“I am not saying that with any malice but saying it simply because that is what the economists tell us, and it is highly unlikely that the Southern economy will survive,” he added.
Sinn Fein Assembly member John O’Dowd asked Lord Morrow how the DUP was “going to suspend, stop or cancel” the council because he should realise that under the Good Friday Agreement that was not possible.
“Our hand is not in the Belfast Agreement” said Lord Morrow. “That is not our work and so therefore we have responsibilities to bring its demise about, and we will.”
The DUP’s Nelson McCausland was also suspended from the assembly this week for claiming that Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams was once a senior officer of the Belfast IRA.
Sinn Fein chief whip Caral Ni Chuilin asked for a ruling from the assembly speaker William Hay in relation to Mr McCausland’s comments “about party colleague Gerry Adams which were wrong, were inflammatory and certainly were unparliamentary’’.
Mr McCausland said he did not intend to withdraw the comments “because they were true”.
The speaker then ordered Mr McCausland to withdraw from the assembly and its precincts for the remainder of the day’s sitting.
After months of political stalemate in the Belfast Assembly, the North’s Education minister, Sinn Fein’s Caitriona Ruane has forced to bring forward her plan to scrap the ‘11+’ academic selection examination for secondary schools in the form of a non-binding guidance to schools.
The executive last week failed to agree to proposals to replace the exam so that grammar schools would award more places to children from poorer backgrounds.
The proposals were bitterly opposed by unionists on the grounds that children from deprived Catholic areas might gain access to sought-after school places at the expense of Protestant children.
Meanwhile, a vote of no confidence in DUP Environment Minister Sammy Wilson has been passed by Stormont’s environment committee.
It follows Mr Wilson’s decision to block a government advertisement campaign on energy conservation.
Mr Wilson, a routinely controversial figure who does not believe that climate change is man-made, said the advertisement was part of an “insidious propaganda campaign”.
The decision has outraged international environmental organisations.
“This is grandstanding on an extreme and dangerous scale,” said SDLP environment spokesman Tommy Gallagher. “The minister must be held accountable for his maverick posturing.”
Amid escalating political pressures, the North’s next local government elections have been postponed until 2011, it was confirmed yesterday.
Announcing the necessary legislation had been passed through the Westminster parliament in London, Direct Ruler Minister Paul Goggins said: “Government is committed to doing everything it can to facilitate local politicians working together in local government for the people of Northern Ireland.”
He claimed the move would also assist the reduction of the North’s 26 local councils to the planned 11 local councils.