Brendan O’Leary, now a professor at the University of Pennslyvannia, takes another view of the governments’ actions, and lays out three reasons why he thinks the agreement has failed to deliver a lasting settlement:
“First, the British government has not fully implemented police reform. That, together with loyalist paramilitary violence, has made demands for the IRA to disband unacceptable to many nationalists who do not trust the police.
“Second, the UUP, the most divided party in the executive, has responded to the threat of electoral defeat by Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist party by rejecting the necessity of police reform; illegally refusing to nominate ministers to the North-South ministerial council; and by demanding suspension, at regular intervals, to bring republicans to heel.
“Third, Sinn Féin, more heterogeneous than is usually acknowledged, has delivered a start to IRA decommissioning, but has not been able to go further, as it is obliged to do under any plain reading of the agreement. Now the IRA stands accused of espionage and involvement with paramilitaries in Colombia.”
He suggests that a full implementation of Patten is the starting point, that way the IRA can advance their programme of decommissioning. He goes on:
“Sinn Féin’s platform is pro-agreement. To maximise its vote it will remain committed, as it says it is, to the path of peace. Police reform and the incentive of further success at the ballot box would make the dismantling of the IRA more likely. As the largest party in the nationalist bloc, Sinn Féin would then have much more to lose from exclusion from the executive if it were found to be in overt and organised breach of its obligations to cease all paramilitarism.”
Contrary to most thinking on this in the last week or so, he prescribes elections and then a review. If this fails, he says, “If that failed, further elections could be called, or, as specified in the agreement, Northern Ireland would revert to direct rule with the British-Irish intergovernmental conference.”
“The failure of devolution will require the return of British direct rule, albeit with an Irish hand on the rudder. This may be unavoidable. But it is surely better to follow the right constitutional route and first give the voters of Northern Ireland their say.”
Thanks to JimMcCool at Irish Abroad for drawing my attention to that one.