All Over by Christmas?

So, it’ll all be over by Christmas. At least that’s what Tony Blair says, and Bertie Ahern, since this was a joint statement, would appear to agree with him – Northern Ireland Talks Falter despite Blair and Ahern Nudges – NY TimesThere remain major problem areas though and while the obvious finger-pointing is, correctly, directed at the DUP’s insistence on the introduction of a de facto party political veto on every decision the Assembly would make, the issue of transparency and accountability on what has, allegedly, been agreed at Leeds Castle should be highlighted.

According to reports, Henry MacDonald in the Observer and David McKittrick in the Independent, Gerry Adams has agreed that a “comminqué from the IRA leadership” will contain the necessary ingredients to satisfy the Irish and British Governments – and, it would seem, the UUP, the SDLP and other parties – even the DUP appear to consider the terms of that communiqué sufficient, though they want to see it in black and white first.

And there’s the rub. Despite all the reports emphasising the extent of the undertaking by the PIRA to end paramilitary activity and complete decommissioning, Adams and the rest of the Sinn Féin delegation continue the charade of claiming not to be privy to discussions on that undertaking. The official position is that no-one in Sinn Féin has seen any such text.

A few weeks ago, Mark Devenport of the BBC, talked about the utilisation of plausible deniability by local politicians and how flat denials rely on precise interpretations of the wording. Yet ‘here we go again’ is hanging in the air unsaid by the many journalists covering these talks. By refusing to press for transparency on this issue, by failing to call these politicians on the continuing ambiguity of their statements, an ambiguity that is employed for party political reasons, the media is failing in its role. That doesn’t suggest much of a chance for establishing accountable democracy here, and it doesn’t suggest much hope for Christmas.