The Stormont Executive will implode, TUV leader Jim Allister has predicted, with the only question being when that will take place.
In confident form after a year in which his party won more votes than ever before, the North Antrim MLA told his party conference on Saturday that Stormont was fundamentally unstable because of its “unworkable” structures.
And the TUV leader said that the DUP was now saying things which his party had been saying for years, with Peter Robinson recently describing Stormont as “dysfunctional”.
Although the TUV leader is the arch-opponent of the Executive, there have been similar private warnings from more moderate political figures – including some Executive ministers themselves.
Addressing an increased number of delegates at the Ross Park Hotel in Kells, Mr Allister said that Stormont had become “a byword for chaos, waste and inaction”.
He said: “Here we are facing the closure of hospitals and drug addiction units, while Stormont itself is a waste machine – £5m on spin doctors, £50,000 per week on wining and dining; £2m on special advisers – over twice what is spent in Scotland and four times the cost of Spads in Wales, over £150m during this Assembly term on the useless North/South bodies, £16.5m per year on 367 staff in OFMDFM – more than twice the staff of the Prime Minister ... and with all that they still can’t con the public .
“And, wait for it, 124 in the ‘equality and strategy unit’. Strategy, what strategy? As for equality, ask Ashers bakery about where the OFMDFM equality strategy lands you – in court for daring to exercise your freedom of conscience.
“And, who funds the thought police that masquerade as the ‘Equality Commission’? Peter and Marty, of course. It is their budget which sustains them to persecute those who dare to have principles. Ashers are being dragged through the courts on funds supplied by OFMDFM. And then the DUP tell us how much better things are under Sinn Fein/DUP misrule.”
Relentlessly lampooning the Stormont Executive, the TUV leader said that his party’s mission is to “hasten the day when it is put out of its misery”.
He added: “Whether this Stormont executive implodes this year, next year ... implode it will, because it defies the basic rules of democracy; when you don’t have to be agreed about anything in order to be in government, of course, once in government paralysis, discord and logjam will ensue.
“Only the glue of some semblance of power holds it together, but one day even that will give way to the inevitable collapse of a system that can never have democratic credibility.”
Repeating his call for the introduction of voluntary coalition structures at Stormont, Mr Allister added: “And if it needs the added protection of an attainable weighted majority on key issues, then TUV is open to discuss that.”
However, in an unspoken nod to Margaret Thatcher’s famous ‘out, out out’ comment, he said: “But mandatory coalition is out. Robbing the voters of the right to change their government is out.
“Denying even the basic right to an Opposition is out.”
Referring to last week’s BBC Spotlight revelations about the Stormont expenses scandal, Mr Allister said: “Sinn Fein, not satisfied with the Northern Bank proceeds, has been ripping off the taxpayer by laundering public money to the tune of millions through bogus cultural societies and bogus research companies.”
He added: “If ever there was a need for a vigorous police investigation, this is it, but, once more, will truth and justice be sacrificed on the altar of protecting the process?
“Probably, because in the new Northern Ireland ... protecting the process trumps everything, including truth and justice.”
Earlier, Ballymena councillor Timothy Gaston accused Sinn Fein of having “swindled the taxpayer” over Stormont expenses and called for the PSNI to thoroughly investigate what had gone on.
The party made presentations to two councillors who have each served more than four decades – Larne’s Jack McKee and Ballymena’ Borough Council’s Ahoghill stalwart Roy Gillespie.