So we are back in hiatus territory yet again. John Reid took his first Northern Ireland question time in Westminster since the suspension of the devolved institutions.
But all such periods in NI are risky. The essential gambit in Tony Blair’s speech last night was to take pressure off Unionists and place it on the only party in the Executive with official links to a paramilitary army. But there are signs that in the absence of the political chamber at Stormont, things will not stay that neat for long.
According to Barry McCaffrey in the subscription only Irish News:
“The DUP and Ulster Unionists have refused to withdraw from talks with loyalists on forging a ‘united vision for unionism’ despite the seizure of a deadly haul of UDA weapons. Mainstream unionists were last night accused of hypocrisy after they flew to South Africa with the political representatives of the UDA less than 24 hours after a massive weapons haul was uncovered in Belfast.”
These talks are undoubtedly a necessary part of the process of Unionism trying to generate a workable vision for the future, and perhaps a prelude to a quid pro quo for the possible disbanding of the IRA.
But in the meantime, it is likely to get a rough ride from Nationalists who may not understand their willingness to talk to organisations which are not currently on ceasefire, whilst keeping up political pressure on Sinn Fein to be expelled from the political process for its connections to the IRA, which has substantially maintained its own.
Update: Fianna Fail senator defends Peter Robinson.