Beyond doomsday?

Chris Thornton explores Sinn Fein’s current thinking in the aftermath of last weekend’s UUC meeting.

In the subscription only Irish News, Brian Feeney puts the current situation more bluntly:

“Concentrating on the scheduled collapse of the Stormont executive on January 18 has obscured the size of the swing in sentiment against power sharing in the UUP and as a consequence, the comprehensive nature of the victory of the UUP’s anti-agreement element on Saturday. It doesn’t really matter whether the executive collapses this week or in four months time. The UUP has repudiated strand one of the Good Friday Agreement. It will not be resurrected in 2003.”

Feeney pinpoints item six on the list of demands as the source of the trouble. He goes on:

“While Trimble’s deadline for pulling down the executive remains the main threat to the agreement, it’s the other items in the motion, agreed unanimously, which indicate the sea change in the balance of forces in the UUP – the immediate withdrawal from the all-Ireland bodies, opposition to 50/50 recruitment to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, to any more policing reforms, to the return to the north of people on the run and the demand for a commission for ‘innocent victims’. Most telling of all is the proposal for talks to discuss a “viable basis for the future governance of Northern Ireland”. In short, an end to the Good Friday Agreement.”

He recognises that the anti-agreement Unionists within the UUP have been careful and skilful in transforming the Assembly party from a pro to an anti party, but goes on to suggest that this will block only the element that anti-Agreement Unionism is interested in having, local democratic accountablity. And it can do nothing to stop those parts of the process remaining in the control of Westminster:

“The UUC has committed Trimble to pull the plug in January regardless of reforms, so Blair may as well get on with it. Nothing Tony Blair can do or not do will induce unionists to resurrect a power-sharing executive next year. On the other hand, there is nothing unionists can do to bring down the Good Friday Agreement. They can only damage the element they themselves want most.”

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