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Colin Knox and Padraic Quirk

Centre for Research in Public Policy and Management

University of Ulster

Contact details:

Dr. Colin Knox
School of Public Policy, Economics & Law
University of Ulster
Tel No. (0232) 365131 x 2339/2667/2189

Fax. (0232) 362805

August 1994

Contents Pages
Report Summary and Findings 3-23
Section 1. Introduction and research background 24-31
- brief background
- aims of the research
- design & methodology
Section 2. The political context for responsibility sharing 32-43
- the 1989 local government elections
- the 1993 local government elections
Section 3. Responsibility sharing in practice 44-58
- councils involved
- the need to share:
nationalist and unionist responses
Section 4. Council profiles 59-92
Section 5. The views of councillors 93-130
- 12 sharing councils
- 3 non-sharing councils
Section 6. The benefits of responsibility sharing ? 131-151
- investment data
- cross party voting
Section 7. An update - the second term 1994/95 152-168
Appendices: 169-189
Appendix 1: Local government elections 1989 & 1993
Appendix 2: Census data & local government elections
Appendix 3: Councils not involved in responsibility sharing
Appendix 4: Interview questionnaire and interviewees
Appendix 5: Significance tests


The authors wish to acknowledge the following people, in no particular order, who assisted in a variety of ways the production of this report:

(a) all those councillors who gave their time willingly and generously to be interviewed amounting. in some cases, to 2 hours; this is not only indicative of their interest in local government as a democratic forum but illustrative of their tolerance in our sometimes naive questioning;

(b) several council Chief Executives who, through informal discussions, provided useful advice on the study and eased our access into council meetings;

(c) the local government division of the Department of the Environment for supplying helpful factual information;

(d) CCRU. in particular Dr. Dennis McCoy and Dr. Tom Gardiner, for funding assistance, without which the study could not have been undertaken;

(e) colleagues at the Centre for Research in Public Policy and Management, in particular Professors Barnett, Connolly. Thain and Dr. Carmichael for their helpful critical review and comments.

Responsibility for any inaccuracies and inferences contained in the report remains with the authors.



Section 1: Introduction and research background

The report begins by briefly describing the role of local government in Northern Ireland, its symbolic significance as the only elected forum and the momentum for change and moderation, following the campaign of opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement 1985, mounted in council chambers.

The overall aim of this research project is to examine the impact of 'responsibility sharing" on local government in Northern Ireland.

More specifically the research will:

(1) consider, in detail, the consequences of responsibility sharing addressing questions such as:
- what are the perceived benefits and problems for the politicians involved?
- has it been of value in encouraging private investment and government funding in the views of those involved, and, if so, in what way?
(2) examine evidence where responsibility sharing has had a moderating influence on council behaviour e.g. Dungannon Council's compromise motion in the wake of the Parachute Regiment incident in Coalisland (May 1992);
(3) investigate the extent to which responsibility sharing has isolated the more extreme politicians within council chambers and whether this has translated into a shift in public voting patterns;
(4) assess the potential for extending the concept into councils so far unwilling to adopt it.

The research design involved qualitative research in twelve councils participating in power sharing and three non-sharing councils in 1993-94 as follows:
Power sharers:
Nationalist control: Derry, Down, Limavady, Magherafelt, Newry & Mourne, Omagh;
Unionist control: Armagh, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Fermanagh;
No overall majority: Dungannon, Moyle.
Non sharers:
Unionist control: Lisburn, Cookstown, Craigavon.

The research consisted of five key elements:
(a) documentary research of council minutes and local newspaper reports on council meetings since the commencement of responsibility sharing;
(b) an analysis of voting trends in the May 1993 elections with a particular interest in cross-party transfer patterns;
(c) in-depth semi-structured interviews, totalling 50, with leaders of each political grouping in 15 councils;
(d) non-participant observation of monthly council meetings in 15 councils over a 6 month period (November 1993 - June 1994);
(e) collation and analysis of grant investment data from LEDU and IDB, disaggregated by district council area.

1 The words "power sharing" and "responsibility sharing" are used interchangeably throughout this report with no political connotations.

Section 2: The political context for responsibility sharing

Section 2 locates the operation of responsibility sharing in practice within the electoral framework of both the 1989 and 1993 local government elections in Northern Ireland.

The 1989 local government elections

On the unionist side, represented by the UUP and DUP, first preference votes fell from 53.8% in 1985 to 49.1% in 1989. On the nationalist side, the combined SDLP and Sinn Fein vote increased from 29.6% in 1985 to 32.4% in 1989. More significant, however, was a shift within both communities in voting patterns.

The DUP's vote dropped by 6.6%, representing a loss of 32 seats overall. The UUP increased its share of the total vote by almost 2% taking an extra three seats in councils from its 1985 position. The gap between the DUP and UUP had widened since the 1981 local elections, at which stage there was a 0.1% advantage in favour of the DUP. The 1985 elections saw the UUP regain dominance over the DUP by a 5.2 % lead in first preference votes. The 1989 elections revealed an even wider UUP primacy of 13.7% over the DUP vote.

The SDLP vote increased by 3.4% from 1985, resulting in an additional 20 seats in councils. An SDLP presence of 121 councillors throughout Northern Ireland, was the largest ever for the party. Sinn Fein's vote decreased marginally from 11.8% in 1985 to 11.2%, although it lost 16 council seats in total.

The overall picture emerging from the 1989 elections was one of movement away from the extremes both on the unionist and nationalist sides. The government was encouraged by this trend and the Secretary of State voiced his hopes that the newly elected councillors would behave constructively and not disrupt business. The annual election of council chairmen which followed indicated a spirit of co-operation in a number of councils. In eleven local authorities the top posts of mayor/chairman and deputy were held by councillors from opposing sides of the political divide.

The 1993 local government elections

Overall, the 1993 results showed few political upsets. Indeed, the political landscape remained broadly similar to the 1989 elections. The total unionist vote (DUP & UUP) amounted to 46.5%, representing a continued decline from 1985 (1985: 53.8%; 1989: 49.1%). Conversely, the combined nationalist vote (SDLP and Sinn Fein) continued to increase to its highest of 34.4% '(1985: 29.6%; 1989: 32.4%). The UUP achieved 29.3% of the vote compared with

3 1.4% in 1989. In terms of seats, their numbers increased by 4 to 197. The SDLP increased its share of the vote from 2 1.2% to 2 1.9% and gained 6 extra seats, bringing their total to 127, a record number of seats. The DUP's share of the vote fell marginally by 0.5% to 17.2% and the party lost 7 seats from a peak in 1981 of 26.6% (greater than the UUP). Sinn Fein increased both its share of the vote and seat allocation. The party now has 51 councillors, up eight on 1989, and their electoral strength stands at 12.5% province wide.

Most of the main political parties expressed satisfaction with their performance in the elections which showed no dramatic shift in overall share of the vote. Because there were 16 more seats available from 1989. nearly all parties could claim an increase. Government hopes that the DUP and Sinn Fein vote would decrease decisively, did not materialise. Both were seen as formidable obstacles in achieving political accommodation, a view not endorsed by the electorate.

Section 3: Responsibility sharing in practice

This section provides an overview of councils involved in responsibility sharing 1993-94.

- 12 councils are currently engaged in responsibility sharing;
- in 8 out of 12 councils the partnership is between the SDLP and UUP;
- Banbridge is keen to point out that it wants to rotate the chair with the SDLP, in 1989-93, Banbridge shared the vice-chair with other political parties.

Nationalist councils:
- 6 out of 6 councils with overall nationalist control share responsibility;
- in 2 of these (Deny and Down) the SDLP are the majority party;
- in Newry & Moume the SDLP has half of the 30 seats;
- in Magherafelt & Limavady nationalists have a slim majority and the SDLP has to rely on either UUP or Sinn Fein for support;
- in Omagh, where Sinn Fein is the largest party, the SDLP require the direct support of the UUP.

Unionist councils:
- there are 15 unionist controlled councils;
- 3 have no nationalist representation;
- of the remaining 12, four participate in responsibility sharing (i.e. 1/3) - Armagh, Ballymoney, Banbridge & Fermanagh.

No overall majority:
- there are 5 councils with ao overall majority;
- two councils with no overall majority (Dungannon & Moyle) share responsibility.

The SDLP have no need to co-operate with any other political party in 3 of the 6 nationalist controlled councils. Equally, the UUP have outright stewardship in Banbridge, though in Fermanagh and Armagh tacit support from one other constitutional party is required. The DUP in Ballymoney require the support of the SDLP if they are to control council business.

The nature of "hung" councils, which require strong political alliances, is evident in Dungannon, though in Moyle the main political parties do not compromise on differences due to the presence of a number of independent councillors.

Section 4: Council profiles

Each of the 12 councils involved in power sharing during 1993-94 is profiled through information on the breakdown of seats, a brief history of power sharing and events surrounding the election of the chair/vice-chairmen in the first annual general meeting following the 1993 elections. The information contained within each profile has been drawn primarily from local newspaper reports and council minutes.

Section 5: The views of councillors

This section is divided in two parts. The first part focuses on how responsibility sharing is perceived by councillors within sharing councils and the second part is members' views in a sample of non-sharing councils. Based upon quotations from 50 in-depth interviews with councillors from the main political parties, the following is a summary framework of their views, devised by the researchers:

The Ulster Unionist Party:
Summary position of the party:
(i) responsibility sharing is a cliché; participation in the pact with the SDLP is a useful charade which conveys the "right" corporate image when it matters;
(ii) it makes for a more civilised and efficient way to conduct council business and is consistent with democratic principles;
(iii) tacit support for it in practice, but don't publicise it electorally, particularly in the face of DUP opposition on councils as they can exploit the obvious disagreements with the SDLP and assert themselves as the only "real" unionist party;
(iv) responsibility sharing doesn't hurt the majority party as they will always win the vote -more unionists councils should do it and "steal a march" on what has been a very effective SDLP public relations exercise;
(v) The Northern Ireland Office is, in some way, surreptitiously implicated in promoting the idea of responsibility sharing by cajoling councils through a "nod and wink" policy implying more powers and increased investment for those who co-operate. This research study was seen by the few who enquired about its funding source as part of that process.

The Democratic Unionist Party:
Summary position of the party:
(i) implacable opposition to responsibility sharing, although there are odd exceptions usually resulting from local difficulties where relationships between the DUP and UUP are particularly strained (e.g. Ballymoney);
(ii) it is no more than a window dressing exercise, it is anti-democratic and something of a myth since there is no real power to share;
(iii) the government and the SDLP have a similar agenda, to replicate the local council model at national/all-Ireland level; pressure is exerted from SDLP headquarters on local councillors to promote the policy at all costs;
(iv) the UUP do not promote the idea electorally and it lacks support amongst their party councillors at grassroots level;
(v) responsibility sharing has been selective in that it doesn't involve the entire "unionist family" (UUP & DUP) by excluding the DUP; a cosy relationship has developed between the SDLP and the UUP resulting in an ineffective and lethargic opposition party, this has led to bad decisions;
(vi) Nationalist areas are being more favourably treated by government, resulting in alienation.

Sinn Fein:
Summary position of the party:
(i) a view that the SDLP/UUP pact is an unholy and fragile alliance which frequently comes under pressure, one consequence of which is that each party is forced to "square up" to Sinn Fein and the DUP respectively in order to prove their credentials in the pact, hence Sinn Fein and the DUP can be isolated; one of the "advantages" of the pact, therefore, is that the SDLP and UUP can, under the guise of fairness and equality, exclude their electoral opponents, Sinn Fein and the DUP;
(ii) there is only an illusion of power sharing as the majority will prevails;
(iii) there is an ambivalence about its value, some see it as useful, others as a farce; the former are Sinn Fein members who have benefitted from proportionality on committees, the latter are those who have been excluded or under-represented on committees;
(iv) the SDLP has lost its way with the nationalist community through its neglect of controversial grassroots issues, in their bid to pander to the unionists;
(v) Sinn Fein (and the DUP) seek to embarrass the alliance by exposing political contradictions in decisions taken jointly by the SDLP and UUP;
(vi) the relationship between Sinn Fein and the UUP could improve but for the presence of DUP members on councils.

Summary position of the party:
(i) sharing responsibility is intrinsically good at local level and it does not., in any way, dilute nationalist representation; in general, it has a moderating influence on council business; (ii) minority feeling among SDLP councillors that the Northern Ireland Office and government ministers are more predisposed to responsibility sharing councils; (iii) the "success" of responsibility sharing is not a precursor to transferring more powers to local government, which should only come as part of an overall political settlement at the macro level; examples of irresponsible councils are frequently cited;
(iv) view that UUP councillors in nationalist controlled councils accept the notion of responsibility sharing and try to work with it, albeit reluctantly;
(v) view that in unionist councils responsibility sharing is only acceptable where unionists are coming under pressure electorally, the slim majority or "writing on the wall" scenario; (vi) the perception of power sharing has been one of predatorial advantage; the future lies in changing attitudes whereby civic ownership becomes a core public good, and partisan advantage, as a private good, is relegated to the political dust bin.

Section 6: The benefits of responsibility sharing?

This section tests the two most frequently cited benefits arising from responsibility sharing. Firstly, those councils who share power are financially favoured by government and secondly, responsibility sharing encourages moderate behaviour amongst councillors. leading to cross-party voting amongst the electorate.

The first assertion is examined through data collected on investment by both LEDU and IDB in each council area over a 3 year period (1989-92). The second is addressed by analysing cross-party voting transfer patterns in the 1993 local government elections. The outcome of this research is presented in the "findings" of the report which follow.

Section 7: An update - the second term: 1994/95

This section provides an update on the changes that have occurred within Northern Ireland's 26 local authorities following the annual general meeting held in June 1994 and their implications for the power sharing debate.

In terms of responsibility sharing councils, 10 of the 12 identified in section 1 of the summary continued to rotate the chair and vice-chair positions:
- the 6 nationalist controlled councils;
- the 2 hung councils (Dungannon & Moyle);
- 2 of the 4 unionist councils, Fermanagh and Banbridge, plus significantly Cookstown and Craigavon joined the ranks of the power sharers; Armagh and Ballymoney did not continue with the rotation policy.
Overall, 12 councils opted to rotate the top positions between unionist and nationalists for the forthcoming year (1994-95).

The report examines some of the more significant developments:
- the joint UUP/Alliance 'pact" which ended DUP control in Castlereagh;
- the continuing controversy over nationalist exclusion in Belfast City Council;
- problems the SDLP have in securing a unionist partner to share power with in Deny City Council;
- the election of a Sinn Fein vice-chair in Magherafelt;
- the election of an independent nationalist and SDLP chairman in Banbridge and Fermanagh respectively, the former by design, the latter by default;
- the significance of SDLP vice-chair positions in Cookstown and more importantly Craigavon.


The focus of this research project has been local government councillors from 15 councils, twelve of which shared responsibility and three non-sharers (at the time of the study 1993/94). The findings, therefore, reflect firstly, the views expressed by each of the main political parties to the researchers, secondly, the outcome of the empirical investigation into the perceived benefits of responsibility sharing and finally, prospects for extending the concept in the future.


(i) The SDLP, as a matter of party policy, operate responsibility sharing within all six nationalist controlled councils (Derry, Down, Limavady, Magherafelt, Newry & Mourne and Omagh). They view this policy as both conciliatory and a common-sense approach to the smooth implementation of council business. The party do not see the 'success" of power sharing as a precursor to transferring more functions to local government which should only come as part of an overall agreed political settlement at the macro level. There is an ambivalence amongst SDLP councillors on the "benefits" of responsibility sharing. In nationalist controlled councils they argue that there has been no significant economic advantage by way of government-led investment. In unionist controlled councils, the minority SDLP members cultivate the idea that central government is more favourably disposed to power sharing councils. This exerts pressure on the more reluctant core of Ulster Unionist members and strengthens the SDLP claim for a rotation policy at chair/vice-chair level.

(ii) The Ulster Unionist Party are the key partner in responsibility sharing arrangements with the SDLP. There are 15 unionist controlled councils, 3 of which have no nationalist representation. From the remaining 12 councils, four currently (1994-95) participate in power sharing, Banbridge, Cookstown, Craigavon and Fermanagh (the list changed from 1993/94: Armagh, Ballymoney, Banbridge and Fermanagh). In general, Ulster Unionist councillors view responsibility sharing as a somewhat cynical exercise which they are willing to tolerate and even acquiesce in when in a minority position on councils (Newry & Mourne and Down are examples here). In unionist controlled councils, however, some party members described it variously as an SDLP-inspired cliché or a charade which conveyed the "right" corporate image to ministers and departments when seeking government funding and investment.
That said, tensions exist within the party between moderates and hardliners. There is a clear perception held by UUP members, particularly in non-sharing councils, that power-sharers seem to do better when it comes to securing government funds. Moderates contend that since they (the UUP) are the largest party in all the non-sharing councils, forgoing the possibility of funds for their areas is too risky. This view is informed by the legacy of isolation felt by a number of Ulster Unionist councillors during the Anglo-Irish Agreement protest when they refused to meet government ministers and, as a consequence, debarred themselves from potential funding sources. Hardliners, on the other hand, argue that power-sharing is contrary to the principle of majoritarianism in a democracy and the SDLP, because of their United Ireland agenda, should not hold high office in any form of government whose demise they are dedicated to attaining. Such as position is particularly prevalent amongst UUP councillors who are faced with a strong DUP presence (Belfast and Ballymena are examples here).

(iii) The Democratic Unionist Party are implacably opposed to responsibility sharing in any form. They see it as anti-democratic and an SDLP-driven public relations initiative that is no more than window dressing. Party members are highly critical of UUP members who "collaborate" in a "cosy relationship" with the SDLP. DUP councillors frequently attempt to expose the fragility of UUP members' commitment to power sharing within councils (Magherafelt and Dungannon are cases in point) and their reluctance to publicise the idea to the traditional Ulster Unionist electorate. Moreover, DUP members have campaigned vigorously to highlight the "hypocrisy" of the SDLP in nationalist councils masquerading under a mantle of sharing but operating de facto exciusionist policies (Deny City Council). Although there are examples of DUP/SDLP partnerships (Armagh and Ballymoney) such arrangements are an aberration normally caused by local difficulties between the DUP and the UUP.

(iv) Sinn Fein are equivocal about power sharing. Some Sinn Fein members see it as useful, others as a farce. The former are Sinn Fein members who have benefitted from proportionality on council committees (Newry & Mourne and Magherafelt) the latter are those who have been excluded or under-represented on committees (Dungannon and Fermanagh). One consequence of the SDLP/UUP "pact" is that both these parties, to prove their sincerity and commitment to the partnership, engage in a more obdurate approach to Sinn Fein and the DUP respectively. Sinn Fein members, at the receiving end of attempts to marginalise them, see this as a clever SDLP ploy to outflank them electorally under the guise of mainstream consensus politics with unionists, an idea with mass appeal to voters frustrated and disillusioned by the vitriol synonymous with council chambers.

  1. The Alliance Party, whose views were not widely canvassed in this research because of their low representation in power sharing councils, are committed to the principle of consensus politics in local and national government. Responsibility sharing, at local council level, makes for good government in divided societies and can provide a model for a devolved administration with power sharing mechanisms at the macro level.


The two most frequently quoted benefits arising from responsibility sharing are:
(a) those councils who share power are in some way financially favoured by the government or its agencies when it comes to industrial investment;
(b) responsibility sharing has a propensity to encourage moderate behaviour amongst councillors in the conduct of business and this, in turn, will be reflected in both cross-party electoral voting between the SDLP/UUP and a decline in support for Sinn Fein and the DUP.

These assertions were tested, firstly, by considering LEDU and IDB investment data in each council area for a 3 year period (1989-92) and, secondly, by an analysis of voting patterns in the 1993 local government elections. The findings were as follows:

(vi) Investment data
LEDU and 1DB investment data in councils do not substantiate the view that the government is actively promoting responsibility councils in local industrial development or indeed that responsibility sharing councils, in themselves, can attract investment.

(vii) Electoral data
(a) Since 1989, the responsibility sharing era, there has not been a significant decline in support for Sinn Fein or the DUP in local elections. In 1993 Sinn Fein's first preference vote increased by 1.3% and they gained 8 extra seats (total of 51 councillors). The DUP vote decreased only marginally by 0.5% with the loss of 7 seats (total of 103 councillors).
(b) There is a greater propensity to transfer votes within and between the main political blocs in power sharing councils than authorities which do not share responsibility, with one exception, SDLP transfers to Sinn Fein. Higher transfer patterns therefore exist in power sharing councils, with the tendency more significant from nationalists to unionists, than vice-



In the light of this research what are the prospects for power sharing becoming more widespread in local government ? Such crystal-ball gazing rests uneasily with academic researchers whose predictions in print can return to haunt them, particularly when they prove erroneous !! Notwithstanding such pitfalls, the authors offer an overview of future prospects based upon their fieldwork in councils.

Three facets of responsibility sharing were most frequently expressed by councillors:
(a) power sharing is a misnomer as there is no real power to share;
(b) power sharing is a flawed concept because it is anti-democratic in majority councils;
(c) even if power sharing exists at local level, it could not easily be transferred to a regional model of government.

As one councillor put it:

Responsibility sharing started in Dun gannon Council through the influence of Ken Maginnis and a few nationalists, and it has almost got to the stage where the SDLP expect it, and to me that is throwing away democracy. Here in Fermanagh where the ballot box has returned a unionist council in the form of the UUP & DUP, the SDLP have been seeking the chair for the last few years and I don 't know what their reasoning is. They use it as a propaganda issue saying that Fermanagh is not a power sharing council, but they only have half our strength. It should be like that, it is a negation of democracy otherwise... What is the point in winning the cup and sharing it with the losers? To me the winners are the winners, and that is not said in any triumphalist way, and it is up to them to have the top post. Nowhere else, in my opinion, operates that principle, apart from Northern Ireland. (Foster, UUP, Fermanagh)

In describing both the absence of real power and the potential to extend responsibility sharing to regional government, one councillor noted:

The council can work well on day-to-day issues where each party's constituents are faced with similar problems. We have no problem working with the SDLP or the UUP on roads and housing and a variety of different issues, but these powers do not reside with councils. If councils had real powers it would be harder to work with those parties. At the moment everybody can unite against the Housing Executive, DoE roads, planners etc - the common enemy, but if the council had control over these services the debates would become sectarian. (Molloy, Sinn Fein, Dungannon).

Even if one accepts these limitations is there potential to extend power sharing ?

(viii) Our findings are as follows:
(a) In the 6 nationalist controlled councils (Derry, Down, Limavady, Magherafelt, Newry & Mourne and Omagh) power sharing will continue by virtue of the SDLP's commitment to it as a party policy;
(b) In the 2 councils with no overall majority (Dungannon and Moyle) which rotate the chair, responsibility sharing may be no more than a matter of political expediency where parties seek alliances - making a virtue out of necessity. Other councils, in similar circumstances, have sought alternative arrangements (e.g. Carrickfergus and North Down where the chair/vice-chair were held by Alliance and Independents (1993-93));
(c) 4 unionist controlled councils shared power in 1993-94 (Armagh, Ballymoney, Banbridge and Fermanagh). Following the June 1994 annual general meetings this changed to Banbridge, Cookstown, Craigavon and Fermanagh for the year 1994-95. In the 1993-94 grouping Ballymoney can be explained as an aberration, Armagh and Fermanagh as two councils narrowly held by unionists and Banbridge as the only example where there is a clear unionist majority and proposals (at that stage) to rotate the chair.

In the 1994-95 grouping, the disappearance of Ballymoney is no real surprise. The absence of Armagh and the emergence of Cookstown (another marginal unionist council) in the group does, however, validate SDLP claims that where the balance of power is finely balanced in favour of unionists, they are more willing to share power, described by one SDLP councillor as the "writing on the wall seenario". Banbridge and Craigavon cannot, however, be explained in this way. Both have strong unionist majorities, and in Craigavon's case has been associated with the most blatant examples of sectarianism (the St. Peter's GAA political skirmish). Does this, therefore, represent a bold initiative by the UUP in these councils and signal a change in attitudes amongst UUP members province-wide?

As one UUP councillor in Banbridge put it:

Things are now blowing towards partnership but it will be a long haul.... leadership is needed and, to date, no council has given the lead in this yet. We are going to give a substantial lead if we appoint an SDLP chairman and, if we do, I think you will see a lot more councils follow suit. (Nelson, UUP Banbridge).

(ix) We concur broadly with Councillor Nelson in our findings but with one note of caution. Craigavon's power sharing, given its infamous reputation. is a symbolically important council to "follow suit" and is indicative of the much better relationships developing between the UUP and SDLP in local government. We, however, would be more cautious about the prospect of seeing a "lot more councils" following suit.

(x) More encouraging indicators of a comprehensive commitment to power sharing in unionist councils would entail (in no particular order):
- an SDLP Mayor in Craigavon, to maintain the bold momentum towards power sharing in such a bastion of unionism and provide leadership to reluctant sharers;
- a consistent UUP/SDLP rotation policy in the finely balanced unionist councils (Armagh, Fermanagh, Cookstown and perhaps Antrim);
- some consensus in Belfast City Council, not only because of its political balance but also its dominance of what constitutes local government in Northern Ireland, would herald a major shift in unionists' attitudes to power sharing and act as an example for the waverers elsewhere.

Only then could we, with certainty, report a genuine sea-change. This is not to devalue the important changes which have taken place, nor to question the sincerity and commitment of those currently involved in responsibility sharing, but to suggest that the "critical mass" of unionist controlled councils have yet to embrace the concept of power sharing in Northern Ireland local government.

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