UNIONISTS were cautious about Tony Blair’s suggestions at Leeds Castle that the IRA was about to end all paramilitary activity and decommission – though one DUP delegate seemed confident the latter would be dealt with by Christmas. However, it’s action, not words that was demanded, so there will be much interest in the next two IMC reports. There seems little doubt that the next one will report a hugely dramatic reduction in IRA paramilitary activity.
If that trend continues and decommissioning is ‘dealt with’ in a manner that the DUP is content with by Christmas, the following IMC report will likely be brought forward. If there’s an election in May, it might make February or March more likely.
At this point, the DUP will face a stark reality – the IRA will have, to all intents and purposes, gone away. And since the DUP promised not to serve in Government with ‘armed Sinn Fein/IRA’, there will be no reason for First Minister Robinson to not sit in an Executive alongside Deputy McGuinness.
Unless they are still wrangling over North-South arrangements and ministerial accountability, of course. Then we’ll know it was all a sham…