Northern Ireland

Voters back removal of Stormont collapse veto

A general view of Parliament Buildings in the Stormont Estate area
Parliament Buildings on the Stormont Estate. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY/PA (Liam McBurney/PA)

An overwhelming majority of voters back the removal of the veto that enables one of the assembly’s two largest parties to crash the power-sharing institutions, new research reveals.

More than three-quarters of supporters of Stormont’s main parties believe no single party should have the capacity to bring down the executive and assembly.

The veto has been used twice in recent years, first by Sinn Féin in 2017 and then by the DUP in February 2022.

It has led to the institutions being dormant for five of the past seven years.

But the latest Irish News-University of Liverpool polling indicates backing for the removal of the veto across supporters of all Stormont’s parties.

Most voters think one single party should not have the power to collapse the devolved institutions

In all, 74.7% – almost three-quarters – of those questioned said it was wrong that one party could collapse the institutions by walking out of the executive.

Stormont’s mandatory coalition system means that if either the largest nationalist party or their unionist counterpart chooses not to participate in the executive. then the institutions cannot function.

Recent legislation means there is now a six-month cooling off period after one of the largest two parties leaves the executive but once that time elapses, the institutions are shut down.

Opposition to the veto is strongest among Alliance supporters, with 94.2% believing no one party should have the power to bring down the executive and assembly.

Sinn Féin and SDLP voters are also opposed to the current arrangements, with 78.9% and 83.3% respectively agreeing that a single party shouldn’t be able to crash Stormont. Ulster Unionist voters (72%) are also critical of the status quo.

While a majority of DUP supporters (58%) believe it’s wrong that one party holds a veto over power-sharing, they are the smallest proportionately of Stormont’s main parties.

Meanwhile, more than half TUV supporters (55.8%) would like to see the veto removed, though 34.9% support its retention.

Overall, 9.2% of those surveyed are content with the single party veto, with Aontú voters being its strongest backers (55.6%).

Newton Emerson resized
Newton Emerson

Irish News columnist Newton Emerson said it was significant that a majority of every party’s supporters backed reform and notable that nationalists appeared among the strongest advocates.

“Sinn Féin has been the most reticent to remove the veto but no poll is going to bounce the big two parties into surrendering their veto,” he said.

“Reform will have to be led by both governments and there seems to be an appetite for that in Dublin at least, judging by Micheál Martin’s comments at the recent Alliance conference.”

:: The survey is based on 1206 respondents and was carried out by SMR Belfast between February 11-28. The margin of error is -/+ 3.1%.