Negotiations: police and arm(ie)s are key

Barrister Noel Whelan is one of the more erudite commentators on Northern Irish affairs in the Republic. This week he his column in the Examiner covers the potential sticking point between the DUP and Sinn Fein of policing and decommissioning.

He summarises Jeffrey Donaldson at the Parnell School last week:

“…the DUP is seeking the following: full decommissioning of IRA weapons to be dealt with ‘conclusively’; the IRA and the associated ‘architecture’ of paramilitary violence to be disbanded; Sinn Féin to ‘sign up’ to the new policing arrangements”.

“By contrast” he suggests, “Adams wants a timetable for the devolution of policing responsibility to be set out in advance”.

Here Whelan has hit upon what may be the real sticking point in coming to a future deal.

As the number one party in Unionism facing – and this is important to understand – a largley pro-Agreement UUP opponent, the DUP has a huge amount of scope to make deal for Agreement Mark II that is also fully agreeable to Sinn Fein.

But it is felt by most Unionist commentators that Trimble’s vulnerablity to the DUP’s successful counterattack lay in the widely held perception that Sinn Fein had negotiated him into clearly legislated commitments, without any visible countervaling commitments on the part of the IRA.

Given this is an issue of taking the home constituency along with them, it is therefore highly unlikely that the party will want to leave port before these particular bow doors are firmly closed.

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