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UK Prime Minister: “Let me reassure the right hon. Gentleman that there is absolutely no question of an imposed solution.”

Wed 22 January 2014, 3:13pm

As the Belfast Telegraph reports, and followed up by the BBC.  For the benefit of the more excitable commenters [and politicians! - Ed] among us, the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, spelt out the political realité on the Haass proposals during PMQs in the Commons today [Added Permanent link].

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): Does the Prime Minister accept that the remarks of the Irish Foreign Minister about the Haass talks and the possibility of some kind of intervention by his Government are deeply unhelpful, that the vast majority of the issues at stake in the Haass talks are internal to Northern Ireland and are matters for the parties in Northern Ireland to engage and agree on, that there can be no question of an imposed solution and that the most helpful thing the Irish Government could do about the past is to be more forthcoming about the role of the state authorities in collusion with the IRA?

The Prime Minister:Let me reassure the right hon. Gentleman that there is absolutely no question of an imposed solution. The proposal for the Haass discussions was a proposal of the Northern Ireland parties themselves. I obviously wish this process well. I think Haass did a good job in providing the architecture of a future solution on parades, flags and the past. I hope the parties can come together and continue the work. My right hon. Friend the Northern Ireland Secretary will do what she can to help to facilitate that work. I think it is important to go on discussing this with the Government of the Republic of Ireland. They have taken steps themselves to come to terms with some of the things that happened in their past. If the parties work together, and if the British and Irish Governments are there to help, I hope we can make some progress. [added emphasis]
And, for the benefit of certain politicians [and the media! - Ed], a reminder from a previous post in December 2009.

As an additional point, back in April 2007 Peter Hain revealed an uncomfortable detail about something that, for some, appears to have become the “agreed truth”

Mr Hain: I hope my friends and colleagues on the other side of the border will not take offence at this, “but I think there was some unhelpful spin from some elements in Dublin which hyped up the interpretation of “joint stewardship. Joint stewardship of the process” was a very carefully chosen phrase. It did not imply joint authority, as I said earlier, joint governance: it implied joint stewardship of the process of bringing peace, of putting in concrete the peace and seeking restoration of the devolved institutions. That is what it meant, and that is what it will mean, that and nothing else. [added emphasis]

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Comments (27)

  1. Nevin (profile) says:

    Dodds-Cameron exchange on Youtube

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  2. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    DUP use the Commons effectively.

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  3. blackie (profile) says:

    None more so than Jeffery Donaldson..

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  4. Brian Walker (profile) says:

    It’s too much to hope for to expect the DUP to stop jerking their over sensitive knees every time an Irish minister open his mouth about the North, or even to be consistent. The DUP have plenty to say about Smithwick haven’t they, where the cross border implications are obvious? The British government are clearly waiting to drain the dregs of the post-Haass encounters. But they and Dublin are involved, certainly over dealing with the past. Granted it might have been better for both governments to have adopted an agreed reaction whether to intervene or keep quiet for the time being. Seeming to disagree only gives the DUP a welcome distraction when their noses ought to be held down hard to the Hass agenda

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  5. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    Jeffrey Donaldson actually isn’t that effective, on the floor at least.

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  6. Morpheus (profile) says:

    All we need now are the DUP to grow a set of balls and say what their problems are with the Haass proposals so we can move forward because all anyone is seeing right now is them dancing to the extremist tune and objecting solely on the basis that ‘themmuns’ don’t object. It’s pathetic

    Maybe Deputy Dawd can talk about that in Westminster next time around

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  7. sherdy (profile) says:

    Cameron has no intention of imposing a solution here because he still wants nothing to do with the place.
    He was just embarrassed into making that statement due to the injudicious intervention of Eamon Gilmore.
    But he was recently seen on the internet trying to buy a 40foot pole.

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  8. tacapall (profile) says:

    “Cameron has no intention of imposing a solution here”

    Indeed, and Britain is also known as perfedious albion for being an honest broker. David Cameron, like Tony Blair and Maggie Thatcher, speaks out of both sides of his mouth, Geraldine Finucane knows that reality only too well.

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  9. Neil (profile) says:

    They don’t have to impose a solution. They can just hold your feet to the fire until you ‘agree’ to impose one yourself.

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  10. Oliver (profile) says:

    Let’s refresh ourselves with what Gilmore actually said:

    “I think if there is an intervention, I think it will be an intervention by both governments together. We are agreed that this is something that both governments will work together on. If necessary we will have to do that, but I hope that it will be possible that the political parties in Northern Ireland will be able to reach agreement among themselves. I think that that’s appropriate, because these are issues that have to be resolved in Northern Ireland.”

    - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-25796431

    Quite a long distance from saying anything would be imposed.

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  11. pauluk (profile) says:

    Gilmore’s comment has been entirely counterproductive and maybe even harmful to the process. If he didn’t mean what everyone has interpreted his words to mean, maybe he should clarify what he actually did mean. As they stand, his words have not been helpful.

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  12. Neil (profile) says:

    If it’s helped anyone, It’s helped those Unionists who don’t want the proposals and don’t have the balls to explain why. It’s ok you can say it, the OO should be allowed to behave like disrespectful animals and Bryson, deposit lost at last election attempt should be consulted first.

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  13. Reader (profile) says:

    tacapall: Indeed, and Britain is also known as perfedious albion for being an honest broker.
    So, I guess that means that – like the DUP – you don’t want Cameron to impose a solution?

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  14. Neil (profile) says:

    No I think it means you can’t trust the English government. I don’t see any preference expressed either way regarding the ‘imposition’ of a ‘solution’.

    Would like to hear what the deal breaker was though. Still not hearing that little piece of information, I suppose us lowly taxpayers don’t deserve to know what the problem is.

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  15. Neil (profile) says:

    I’d add, given Cameron’s hair splitting over the meaning of the word ‘meeting’ in reference to News International I’d say the meaning of the word ‘imposition’ could be open to interpretation. Perfidious indeed.

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  16. Oliver (profile) says:

    @pauluk – maybe he’s not “clarifying” because doing so would only give the DUP more to get rage about.

    Like Neil says, “If it’s helped anyone, it’s helped those unionists who don’t want the proposals and don’t have the balls to explain why.”

    Best for Gilmore to say no more and in that circumstance than to give more fodder to those who want to distract from their prevarication.

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  17. notimetoshine (profile) says:

    What we need, obviously our parties don’t want to reach a compromise/agreement therefore maybe the best thing for the people (if not the politicians egos) is to have an agreement imposed on them.

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  18. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Joint stewardship of the process” was a very carefully chosen phrase. It did not imply joint authority, as I said earlier, joint governance: it implied joint stewardship”

    Here are two definitions of steward:

    1. One who manages another’s property, finances, or other affairs.

    2. One who is in charge of the household affairs of a large estate, club, hotel, or resort.

    If you imagine NI as little more than a large estate then joint stewardship is another name for joint governance. We already know that Irish civil servants from the departments of justice and foreign affairs are based in Belfast and involve themselves in, for example, day-to-day sensitive policing decisions. Such involvement is likely to be at least mildly partisan but not necessarily in support of any Sinn Féin wish list. They might well support the activities of paramilitaries in restorative justice programmes here but will resist the extension of such activities to their own state.

    On the other hand, Peter and Martin may view Theresa and Eamon as bar/air stewards attending to their every whim :)

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  19. Reader (profile) says:

    Nevin, I think the word Hain needed to emphasise was ‘process’. The ‘process’ involved everyone – the aftermath is barely attracting the attention of even one government.

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  20. Reader (profile) says:

    Neil: No I think it means you can’t trust the English government. I don’t see any preference expressed either way regarding the ‘imposition’ of a ‘solution’.
    No one else can impose a solution – it’s either Cameron or no-one. It doesn’t look like he’s going to bother either.
    Albion is the name for the whole island, and perfidious albion is often used to refer to specific acts by Hanoverians, a Dutchman, and a couple of Irish born senior ministers at Westminster. Taking it to refer to the English alone seems to be a modern republican usage. I take it you had complete faith in Gordon Brown?

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  21. Nevin (profile) says:

    The following words from Peter Hain at that same encounter in May 2006 with the NI Affairs Committee is also at odds with the reality I’ve already referred to ie the participation of Irish civil servants in day-to-day governance in NI:

    It is not about joint authority with the Republic in the south, it is not about joint government or anything like that – I would not support that – but, something more important, it would actually be an infringement and a violation of the Good Friday Agreement which was endorsed in the Referendum; so we are not going there.

    Such spin does nothing for the credibility of any Minister.

    Here’s the relevant paragraph on ‘joint stewardship’ from the Blair-Ahern press release in Armagh in April 2006:

    10. If restoration of the Assembly and Executive has to be deferred, the Governments agree that this will have immediate implications for their joint stewardship of the process. We are beginning detailed work on British-Irish partnership arrangements that will be necessary in these circumstances to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement, which is the indispensable framework for relations on and between these islands, is actively developed across its structures and functions. This work will be shaped by the commitment of both Governments to a step-change in advancing North-South co-operation and action for the benefit of all.

    A step-change in Strand 2 would have been a clear breach of the 1998 Agreement so could hardly be described as ‘for the benefit of all’.

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  22. Nevin (profile) says:

    Blair-Ahern press release, April 2006

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  23. Michael Gillespie (profile) says:

    Is the Kingdom United or quasi-federal? Which?
    UK Prime Minster: – Let me assure the Right Hon. Gentleman that there is absolutely no question of an imposed solution.
    In adopting this approach to the Haas proposals David Cameron is confirming the tradition that Westminster doesn’t interfere in N Ireland’s internal affairs. When a government was devolved to Ireland North and South in the 1920s Westminster thought it had washed its hands of Ireland and adopted a policy of hands off. Stormont was allowed to do its own thing even that involved shameless discrimination against the Nationalist/Catholic minority. But in devolving a government to Stormont with a hands off policy by Westminster the Kingdom was no longer united but became quasi-federal. David doesn’t recognise the quasi-federal reality of the Kingdom but claims the Kingdom is united. If he is constitutionally consistent in a so called United Kingdom he has the duty and the power to intervene in N. Ireland affairs and as Prime Minster of a Kingdom which he calls united he should exercise his authority throughout the Kingdom and see to it that the Haas proposals are implemented in full. If he doesn’t, as an honest politician he should concede that since the Kingdom is quasi-federal heading for full federation in Scotland Northern Ireland is free to do as it pleases.
    Michael Gillespie

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  24. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Michael

    “If he is constitutionally consistent in a so called United Kingdom he has the duty and the power to intervene in N. Ireland affairs and as Prime Minster of a Kingdom which he calls united he should exercise his authority throughout the Kingdom…”

    Have a look at the Sewel Convention.

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  25. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    “Joint stewardship of the process” was a very carefully chosen phrase. It did not imply joint authority, as I said earlier, joint governance: it implied joint stewardship”

    @Nevin,

    According to the definition of steward that you provided, this would mean joint management or ownership of the PROCESS. The process being the peace process to keep the province from sinking back into conflict. In my own writing I refer to it as dual mediation–the two governments jointly deciding what the parameters of the process will be and what outside facilitators to invite in.

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  26. Michael Gillespie (profile) says:

    Peter
    The Sewel Convention treats the Kingdom as quasi-federal

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  27. IrelandNorth (profile) says:

    Freud once stated that the merits of psychoanalysis was that it freed-up all that libidinal energy wasted on repression and denial. If some northern politicians aren’t trying to redefine the Englsh language to suit their self-righteous historical retrospective, they’re engaging in geographical denial by denying the existing of fellow island cohabitees. Time for them to re-emerge from the Plato’s cave of their own construction, and confront their least endearing tendencies for political control and manipulation. There’s no future in gerrymander in an increasingly democratising EU.

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