72 hours from a deal?

By all accounts today is a critical day for negotiations. Most of the heated speculation revolves around one quote from Ian Paisley: “If Northern Ireland is going to get a fair deal, and it has not got a fair deal so far, it’ll get a fair deal now. If we miss the opportunity we’ll never get this back again.”

The DUP leader was due to meet the Taoiseach in London’s Irish Embassy at 8.30 this morning, then going on to meet Tony Blair. According to Tommy Gorman on Morning Ireland.

This morning’s meeting may kick off a 72 hour choreography that will end in Dr Paisley’s recommendation for or against the still secret government proposals for a deal at a special party conference. In interview, even Brian Feeney betrayed a sanguine attitude towards the prospects of the DUP signing.

What seems important about Paisley’s words is the sudden sense of urgency about them. It may indicate that his party feels it has gained enough of what they set out for them to run with into next year’s Westminster election.

There has been a certainty amongst some very senior levels of the UUP that their rivals were ‘culturally incapable of striking a compromise’. And it may be that the party has been counting on the DUP not doing a deal before next May.

But if this deal goes through this week, then it would seem that game is off and they could be facing rivals that would not only hold the largest swathe of seats in the Assembly, but will be entitled to four out of the ten executive seats and the office of First Minister.

Formidable.

On the other side of the house, Sinn Féin’s mind is likely to be less on edging out their nationalist rivals the SDLP so much as beefing up their governmental credentials sufficiently in advance of the next Dáil elections to raise their game on the ground amongst the Republic’s poorest and socially excluded groups to the more influential middle class votes.

Clear agreement on the legitimacy of the North South bodies is unlikely to buy that many supplementary votes north of the border, but it will give relevant Sinn Fein ministers and party representatives the opportunity to raise the party’s governmental profile in the Republic, and more pro-actively assert it’s all Ireland Republican credentials.

However it pans out, this week may in retrospect turn out to be the winning candidate (amongst many) for the ultimate accolade of ‘historic’. Insofar as it only represents an agreement to certain actions so that our two-year long hiatus can be brought to a close, it will hardly be the cause of popular celebration.

Fionnuala O’Connor (Ulster’s queen of the erudite aphorism) had it in one recently in her Irish Times column, when she described these final moments as ‘not a bang so much as a harmonious whimper’.

We wait to see if this week’s events live up to their billing.

  • peteb

    Except, Mick, there also this report Paisley rules out talks breakthrough

    IMHO, it’s more likely this latest flurry is about SF’s attempt to place the decision solely in the hands of the DUP.. while SF continue to talk about their concerns and haven’t actually agreed to anything yet.

    The speculation continues.. speculation on who may blink first.

  • maca

    Ahern today:
    “Two years on from the institutions collapsing, a year on from the election, three gallant efforts by everybody to reach a conclusion, you have to call it, and we have to call it within a matter of days.

    I think they’re going to sell off NI, and use the cash for a big southern Irish & G-British bash.

  • Stephen Warke

    There will be a deal – we can all see the choreography, both sides doing their level best not to look weak, trying to get evey last drop they can.

    The SF executive meet Thursday night, the DUP executive meet on Friday night.

    All the signs are there that if both executives agree that the deal is ok, then thats it, we’ll know late on Friday night if we’re back or not.

    My personal feeling is that there will be a deal but it won’t run smoothly – there too many wee points that could go wrong.

    But time will tell…

  • fair_deal

    I bid a £5

  • Will

    Stephen,
    You think there will be a deal. Yet it was only about 24 hours ago that you were proclaiming that the DUP were nothing more than a buch of redneck bigots who were institutionally opposed to having catholics in Government.

    Which is it? Or which position do the new Young Unionists ask that you hold?

  • unionist_observer

    Young Unionists are restricted to a position, unlike young duppers we can speak our mind.

    On a different point, I think these deadlines are a really bad idea, you are nothing going to get anything good out of something rushed like this, politics requires time.

    The media attention that these deadlines demand is also detrimental to any potential deal. Sinn Fein and the DUP are both equally obsessed with media perception, you are more likely to get compromise out of both of them without cameras in tow.

  • unionist_observer

    oops, that first sentence should have read as follows –

    Young Unionists are NOT restricted to a position, unlike young duppers we can speak our mind.

  • Will

    unionist_observer (or Rebecca as some people seem to think you are)

    It really is laughable that you can make these points (i very much doubt you can do it with a straight face).

    There have been numerous threads here where Ulster Unionists supporters have failed to criticise their party on any issue. I’m happy to say that the DUP havent always done things right, but there is an absolute and complete defence from people such as yourself of the Trimble project. Of course, if you all actually do believe that the purple one is a great leader and the best strategist that unionism has ever had then you are more to be pitied then mocked.

  • unionist_observer

    Will

    There are things about the UUP that irritate me but I have more respect for both myself and the party than the air them online.

    You change things by your actions, not by sitting around moaning about them.

  • unionist_observer

    besides when it comes to being attacked by a load of duppers on issues simply for being an Ulster Unionist, you are not likely to get any confessions out of people now are you?

  • alex s

    the most amazing thing about today was the thought of Ian Paisley discussing the future of NI with Bertie Ahern, what was the last 40 years all about?

  • Stephen Warke

    Stephen,
    You think there will be a deal. Yet it was only about 24 hours ago that you were proclaiming that the DUP were nothing more than a buch of redneck bigots who were institutionally opposed to having catholics in Government.

    Which is it? Or which position do the new Young Unionists ask that you hold?

    a number of points….

    1. yes here will be a deal i believe

    2. yes i do believe that the DUP have serious issues that are instrincic to their make up that need to be dealt with, in ur words being ‘rednecks’

    3. what i am saying is coherent as it shows by ur bafflement, just how many people cannot understand the flip flop that is DUP policy and how that the past 6 yers of unionist turmoil have been for what? to have paisley as First Minister? which would back up my view that the DUP are only interested in power, money, miniterial cars and the trappings of office

    4. these views are my own because as an Ulster Unionist, in my Party, im allowed to have an opinion

    Interesting point to note, DUP members in East Belfast were instructed to attend a DPP meeting, not asked but instructed. just an aside to show the dictatorship regime operated by the DUP, quite sad really, and to think that these guys speak for us right now… what a tragedy

  • The Devil

    72 hours from a deal

    obviously they don’t live in a loyalist area

    you wouldn’t have to go more than a door or two to get a ten deal

  • jonty

    it wil be interesting to see who a DUP/IRA coalition goes down with DUPed voters. How are they going to sell an IRA government to the backwoodsmen

  • groucho

    Can’t see why the Duppers are getting so worked up about a photograph of a pile of guns. Shouldn’t they be more worried about the pix of Ian Paisley as First Minister, standing alongside his deputy, Martin McGuinness? Now there’s one for the album!