Sinn Fein: you've had our last word?

A last move, exasperation at Paisley’s sackcloth and ashes remark or a piece of canny brinkmanship? It won’t be the end of the process, nothing has so far shaken it’s general trajectory towards a deal, but it may signal the beginning of the end of this particular flurry.

With each one of these unconsummated ‘deals’, the details holding the two parties apart become ever smaller and less substantial. Long term watchers of Northern Ireland will take heart from that, even if, in the words of one particularly cynical outsider, it only looks like the latest incident of ‘throwing the toys out of the pram.’

And still that fat lady refuses to sing. It ain’t over till it’s over!

  • AW

    The question is it in the electoral interests of SF and DUP to have a deal now? Is there any potential for loss if they don’t?

    There is an argument that goes like this; taking North Down as an example.

    With Alliance standing DUP could take the seat but if Bob stands then perhaps less certain.

    However if a deal is done then the DUP are open to the loss of votes to more extreme Unionists.

    There is of course the reverse argument regarding moderate Unionists.

  • Davros

    Call their bluff. What are they going to do ? Go back to “war” ? As if ….

  • George

    Davros
    your average nationalist could also say call their bluff. Direct Rule only hurts the union in the long term so it’s in unionism’s interests to try make the Northern Ireland construct work.

    SF’s vote catching ability has hardly been affected by Paisley’s “hardline” attitude now has it.
    I’d say the sackcloth and ashes added another 1% on its own.

  • J Kelly

    Davros if the DUP do not go for a deal this time you know whats going to happen come the new year or after the general election more talks and more negotiating and SF will look for even more than whats on offer now. In life sometimes one has to make hard choices. For the first time in the their lives the DUP cant just say no.

    Last nights Folks on the Hill had a very funny but interesting caption of Gerry Adams singing a song “I am not going away you know”. The DUP know this.

  • Davros

    It’s SF holding up the deal. Enough’s enough.
    They Got concessions at the GFA.
    They Got concessions at Weston park.
    They have had new concessions.

    Time for them to do what the people of Ireland want them to do 🙂

  • George

    Davros,
    what “concessions” are you talking about? I thought the GFA was a mutual agreement.

    I’d love to hear the Weston Park concessions. What are they?
    What are the new ones?

  • mickhall

    Are we really meant to believe that yet another bigoted insult, from a man (Paisley) who has made a successful career out of spouting similar words, is going to make Mr Adams throw his hands up in shock and horror. Please, Mr Adams was prepared to over-look 800 years of insults when he began turning PIRA weaponry over to the British nominated decommissioning inspectorate. Sack cloth and ashes is about as mild as it gets in Mr Paisleys lexicon of insults, which normally begin with a visit to hell and damnation. No, if Gerry and the peacemakers pull the plug, one will have to look elsewhere, much closer to home for the reasons.

  • Davros

    Mickhall – what bigotted insult ?
    Paisley made fair comment- as he said, if the security forces have to wear sackcloth and ashes …

  • AW

    P Kelly

    “Davros if the DUP do not go for a deal this time you know whats going to happen”

    They wait until after May elections as there will be no more elections for several years?

  • Davros

    George : concessions ?

    The gagging order on de chastelaine that destroyed the decommissioning acts

    The soon to be announced deals on OTRs

    Concessions on Patten – There was no REQUIREMENT for pattens recommendations to be implememnted in the GFA.

    The release of the dregs of humanity who killed Garda Mccabe.

  • George

    Gagging order Davros? How is that a concession?

    OTR? No concession there yet.

    Patten? Not implemented yet.

    McCabe murderers? Still in jail.

    You are mixing up future concessions with concessions that have already be conceded.

  • Davros

    George – Under the terms of the GFA de C was mandated to give details. As a concession at Weston Park he was gagged, to sparethe IRA’s blushes. That’s a large part of why we are where we are today.

    McCabe Murderers ? Bertie has conceded they will be set free early.

    OTRs ? as I pointed out, to be announced.

    Patten ? There isn’t an obligation to implement Patten in The GFA. But it has been concedced by the Governments that it has to be implemented 🙂

  • mickhall

    Davros wrote,

    Mickhall – what bigotted insult ?
    Paisley made fair comment- as he said, if the security forces have to wear sackcloth and ashes …

    Davros,

    It is not a question of whether you or I thought it was insulting, all that matters is if the constituency Paisley aimed it at did, i e supporters and members of PIRA. Cockneys would say Paisley was pulling their chain, which is an insulting thing to do.

    Regards

  • George

    “The Independent Commission will monitor, review and verify progress on decommissioning of illegal arms, and will report to both Governments at regular intervals.”

    There is nothing in the GFA about giving details to anybody else. I think you’ll have to retract that one about gagging Davros.

  • George

    Davros,
    the other points you made have not been conceded yet. There have been no concessions ahead of a deal. That’s the situation before and after Trimble.

  • Davros

    Mickhall – I think supporters of the IRA went out of their way to take offence. In context, Paisley was after all calling for parity, something which the IRA and SF are supposedly keen to have 😉

    The truth of course is that for Gerry and Co all participants are equal but some are more equal than others. So unionists and especially members of the security forces (P and C ) are expected to crawl on hands and knees over broken glass.

  • Davros

    George : decommissioning: I may have my timing wrong, but I stand by my claim that the IRA was allowed to impose terms of confidentiality beyond the GFA.

    eg :

    Two very different sources :

    The Blanket

    “There is nothing in “the scheme and regulations” governing the decommissioning process that give any party such as the IRA a right to insist on secrecy. And the truth, as we might expect, is much more complicated.
    There are two schemes and sets of decommissioning regulations published by the British and Irish governments. The first became public on June 29th, 1998. Paragraph 26 of that document deals with confidentiality. It reads:

    “The Commission shall ensure that all information received by it in relation to the decommissioning process is kept confidential and that any records maintained by the Commission are kept secure. Disclosure of information received by the Commission may occur where disclosure is necessary:

    for reasons of public safety;
    to confirm the legitimate participation in the decommissioning process by those eligible to do so;
    to fulfil the Commission’s duty to report to the two governments.”

    There is nothing in that paragraph which bestows a right of confidentiality upon the IRA interlocutor or anyone else. To the contrary, the Commission, and General de Chastelain, have the right to reveal information, such as the quantities and significance of a decommissioning act, in three sets of circumstances, each one of which, it could be argued, applied last week.

    The second scheme and regulations were published in August 2002, in the wake of the Weston Park conference which, inter alia, agreed to allow the IRA to self-destruct its weapons by “putting them beyond use”, i.e. by immersing them in concrete. If anything this document widened General de Chastelain’s powers of disclosure. Paragraph 5 allowed him to say anything he wanted about decommisioning. It reads:

    “The Commission may provide to a person who seeks it, such information in relation to the making of arms permanently inaccessible or permanently unusable in accordance with this scheme as it considers appropriate”.

    So, not only is there nothing in the rules which gives the IRA or anybody else the right to impose secrecy on the process, it seems de Chastelain has a discretionary right to publish or communicate anything to anybody about a decommissioning event.

    So why did he claim that he was bound by confidentiality? The answer, now emerging from the international decommissioning body, is that General de Chastelain made a private agreement with P O’Neill, the effect of which was to apply the confidentiality clause of the 1998 scheme, that is paragraph 26, to his dealings with the IRA.

    He needn’t have done so. There was no legal requirement on him to do so. It was an entirely discretionary act by him. He could have told P O’Neill’s human manifestation, Brian Keenan, or his successor, Martin McGuinness, to get stuffed, that the decommissioning process needed credibility and transparency if it was to succeed and that he needed to publish a full list of every weapon, every bullet and ounce encased in concrete in order to persuade Unionists that the IRA was really ending its war. If the IRA didn’t like it they could lump it and Gerry Adams would have to do without his Stormont Executive.

    Daily Telegraph

    De Chastelain ‘wrong’ over secrecy for IRA weapons
    By Thomas Harding, Ireland Correspondent
    (Filed: 30/10/2003)
    General John de Chastelain was wrong to assert he was legally bound by the IRA’s desire for secrecy on decommissioning, which has plunged the Northern Ireland political process back into crisis, it was claimed yesterday.
    The Canadian head of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning said legislation allowed “for confidentiality if a paramilitary group wishes to exercise that right”.
    But his assertion, during “off-the-cuff comments” before his press conference last week, was incorrect, according to political and legal sources. They say there is no provision for confidentiality in the legislation governing decommissioning.
    Although Gen de Chastelain said the IRA had destroyed a “substantial” amount of arms, the lack of transparency forced David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader, to suspend an agreement to return to power sharing with Sinn Fein.
    Mr Trimble said yesterday he and his party had repeatedly warned Gen de Chastelain that secrecy was undermining the process.
    Contrary to the general’s view, he claimed, confidentiality was not a legal obligation but arose from his own arrangements with republicans. “He should have said, ‘If you insist on confidentiality, we will decline to be involved and you will not be able to decommission.’

  • fair_deal

    JK

    “if the DUP do not go for a deal this time you know whats going to happen come the new year or after the general election more talks and more negotiating and SF will look for even more than whats on offer now.”

    And you think the DUP won’t return to the negotiating table with more demands in such a scenario as well?

  • mickhall

    Davros,
    I understand the point you are making and I feel it is becoming increasingly clear that walking over hot coals is the price Mr Adams (or rather PIRA volunteers) are going to have to pay if; they wish to see the agreement up and running in full. The blame for this lays not with Mr Paisley as he is being: well Mr Paisley! but entirely with the Adams leadership who have had more than one opportunity to have dealt with PIRA arms long ago.

  • willowfield

    This is quite true.

    The Provos can hardly complain that more is demanded of them in respect of decommissioning. If they had played ball to begin with, they could have done so within the original provisions of the IICD and the questions of “transparency” or “visual aspects” wouldn’t have arisen.

  • Davros

    Thanks MickHall.
    God Bless, I’m off for lunch.

  • George

    Davros,
    You wrote: “Under the terms of the GFA de C was mandated to give details.”

    This is incorrect. Neither of those two pieces mentioned by you, however interesting and compelling, relate to the GFA. They came afterwards.

    Under the terms of the GFA the General is only mandated to disclose to the two governments.

    SF may well have since agreed at Weston Park (with the UUP) to a visual aspect but it was not within the original GFA.

  • Davros

    George, I accept that I had my 1998 events mixed up 🙂

    So, dealing with your point :

    Under the terms of the GFA the General is only mandated to disclose to the two governments.

    Has he fully disclosed to the two Governments?

    If not, why Not ? Gagged by the provos ?

    If he has, why have the Governments not been allowed to disclose ? Gagged by the provos ?

    No matter which way we look at it, there’s no confidentiality clause in the GFA that justifies stopping the details becoming public. Thus the confidentiality insisted upon by the IRA and SF is outwith the GFA …and as such something on which they have no right to insist.

    Cheers.

  • J Kelly

    Fair deal

    When one is negotiating forward it is easier to pocket the winnings but if one is defending its hard to stop the flow. SF are pushing for a United Ireland and the DUP are defending the union.

    The question is are we nearer a United Ireland today than we were on the Holy Thursday 1998. Its seems a lot closer and getting closer.

  • George

    Davros,
    there is also nothing that says the details are to become public.
    Also, the IRA didn’t even sign up to the GFA so they don’t have to do anything. (Write SF/IRA 100 times as punishment)

    All this “verifiable acts of decomissioning” stuff is outside the Agreement but within the spirit for unionistm, most of Irish nationalism and the British and Irish governments.

    OTRs , McCabe murderers etc. all outside the Agreement but within the spirit for the Shinners.

    “Concession” is not the word to use.

  • Moderate Unionist

    mickhall
    Agreed 01:19 But each side must be careful “not to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory”.

    I think (on balance) that both sides would like to do the deal but if the language gets too emotional, hearts might rule heads.

  • willowfield

    Holy Thursday?

    What’s that?

  • Warm Storage

    Maundy Thursday, Willowfield.

  • willowfield

    Cheers. Anyone know the origin of either of these terms? I’ve heard of Maundy Thursday, although I don’t know what it means. Never heard of Holy Thursday.

  • CavanMan

    its shocking when an irishman doesnt know the meaning of Holy Thursday,no matter what his religion is.SHAME ON YOU

  • willowfield

    Why is it shocking? Is it an Irish “day”?

    And why are you not going to tell us?

  • PS

    I was taught that the whole week peading up to Easter Sunday was Holy week and indeed you could refer to any day of that week as holy, excepting Wednesday (Spy Wednesday) and Friday (Good Friday). The only day the term is commonly used for I think is Holy Thursday as people seem to use the term Easter Saturday for the day before Easter Sunday when it would be more accurate to use Holy Saturday. Am I right in assuming these labels are a mainly Catholic tradition (something I hadn’t previously realised) since WF has never heard of them?

    I’ve never heard the term Maundy Thursday either. What are its origins?

  • George

    Cavanman,
    I don’t believe it’s shocking. Strange I admit but heh some people have never heard of Killian. How many Irish people have heard of Maundy Thursday and how many British people know of St. Stephen’s Day.

    Willowfield,
    it’s not just an “Irish day”. I believe it’s called Holy Thursday in the United States too. In fact, Maundy Thursday would probably be the lesser known term in the English speaking world.

  • George

    It comes from the Latin name for the day:
    “Dies Mandatum,” = “the day of the new commandment.”

  • willowfield

    PS

    I was taught that the whole week peading up to Easter Sunday was Holy week and indeed you could refer to any day of that week as holy, excepting Wednesday (Spy Wednesday) and Friday (Good Friday). The only day the term is commonly used for I think is Holy Thursday as people seem to use the term Easter Saturday for the day before Easter Sunday when it would be more accurate to use Holy Saturday. Am I right in assuming these labels are a mainly Catholic tradition (something I hadn’t previously realised) since WF has never heard of them?

    In the Anglican church, we have Holy Week, but I’ve never heard of individual days being described similarly. I can’t speak for other Protestant denominations.

    George

    it’s not just an “Irish day”.

    Not “just an Irish day” – that means it is an “Irish day”? How come I haven’t heard of it, then? Maybe it is peculiar to the ROI rather than all-Ireland, like St Stephen’s Day instead of Boxing Day?

    I believe it’s called Holy Thursday in the United States too.

    I’m not from the United States. Any links to show its usage in the States?

  • willowfield

    Google brings up a Catholic Encyclopaedia entry.

    Could it be that Holy Thursday is peculiar to the RC Church, rather than to Ireland? Hence it would not be shocking for an Irish Protestant, or an Irish Jew or Muslim for that matter, not to have heard of it?

    (If so, it’s probably only used by RCs in the States, too.)

  • PS

    I would have thought that the term was a Catholic thing rather than an Irish one.

  • willowfield

    Cheers, PS.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Hmmmm…

    Up until now I have been reasonably impressed by the DUP’s handling of the decommissioning issue. I hope they don’t put themselves on the ‘Trimble hook’.

    Surely unionists must have realised by now that for as long as they allow Sinn Fein to use IRA weapons as a negotiating tool to make more political gains, Sinn Fein will do so.

    Afterwards, when unionists return to the table, the side deal has been cut (eg Weston Park and the UUP and DUP blaming each other for ‘concessions’ to republicans now) and unionism is weaker and less able to make its own gains.

    Why anyone would keep handing his opponent the ability to make more gains at his own expense for something purely symbolic is anyone’s guess. It was a crazy strategy for the UUP to pursue, and I hope the DUP has learned the lesson of this previous unionist failure.

    Sorry lads, but IMHO, decommissioning was the big bear trap that unionists willingly stuck their foot into. At best, you get a symbolic (if Pyhrric) ‘victory’, while Sinn Fein makes more practical gains.

    Paisley’s remarks on the need for a photograph and his other hardline statements indicate several things:

    1) Nerves. This is Paisley’s big moment, and he will want to ensure he hasn’t left himself open.

    2) Possibly the need for an exit strategy – although using a Kodak moment as a deal breaker will not impress many. The world will not understand and it will look utterly pathetic, but this may be to the DUP’s electoral advantage.

    3) The need to bring his constituency with him. It’s not unusual for political movement in NI to be preceded by a lot of hardline hot air from a party leader to keep the grassroots onboard in the coming days.

    4) To put pressure on others by appearing as hardline as ever.

    5) It may also be stalling for time, say, until after the Westminster election.

  • willowfield

    Good analysis, Gonzo.

  • mickhall

    I heard someone recently pose the question, what are the actual gains for Republicans if they strike a deal with the DUP, leaving aside that they hope to become part of a government in the south in the not to distant future, etc. If one considers even if the parties do agree and SF Ministers return to a Stormont Coalition Government, the structures of the said administration would be so tight there is little ground to play with as far as implementing party policy. We saw this demonstrated in the past when SF ministers implemented PPF which is against Party policy. So what will any deal bring to SF and more importantly its constituencies table?

    Regards,

    Mick

  • peteb

    Mick Hall hints at the assumption behind Gonzo’s analysis, good though it is.

    SF haven’t said ‘Yes’ to anything in this latest round, except the release of the kilers of Garda Gerry McCabe. In addition to the photographic evidence, there remains the election of the executive (not simply the First and Deputy First Ministers as SF are promoting as an issue) and, of course, the one issue that SF are determined NOT to discuss publicly – policing.

  • CavanMan

    Im not exactly a Huge Fan of Paisley,even though he was born in my great county ;),but he does have a point,Its no great let down for the Republican Movement,they can always claim to have not been beaten by the Mighty British Army.Gerry and Martin now however have to choose either the bullet or the ballet box.As the Representatives of the Nationalist community,They must choose the latter,this period of uncertainty is not doing the nationalist/republican community any favours.My proposal is for any of the Paramilitary grouppies who have realistic military ambitions,to be allowed join a secret division within either the british/Irish armies,you may call them murderers and terrorists,but let them repent the right way,in protecting the good people of society.

  • willowfield

    Their main “gain” would surely be the final step on the path to respectability. As ministers in an Executive they can pose as “statesmen” and portray the kind of image that will win them further electoral ground in the South.

  • CavanMan

    To be honest Willowfield,Sinn Fein will not be looked upon as statesmen in the Republic or Northern Ireland,even during a period of demilitarisation,for many decades to come.We all have long memories,and lets not kid ourselves,even when decommissioning is over and done with,The Unionist Community along with a majority of Southerners will still find it hard to accept sinn fein.

  • George

    SF consider NI a “statelet” so they’d hardly be statesmen.

    Methodists also use Holy Thursday. I think Maundy Thursday is used more in Britain than anywhere else. Any Yanks out there?

    Any ideas on whether SF want the deal at all costs but the IRA don’t or is everyone of the opinion that the two are indistinguishable?

  • CavanMan

    George
    i dont believe they are indistinguishable,there are many fine politicians in Sinn Fein,North and South who wish for a United Ireland under peaceful consentual happenings.Some examples are Mary Lou Mc Donald,and Sean Crowe who is my local TD near UCD,who are both extremely hard workers and whom ive been informed are moderates.To say that there aren’t members of Sinn Fein,high up in the IRA is rubbish (Martin Ferris,Mc Guiness,Adams etc).However i believe it is unfair to look upon the organisation of Sinn Fein as a whole and link them with the IRA,just because of the actions of a few.

  • mickhall

    Willowfield wrote “Their main “gain” would surely be the final step on the path to respectability. As ministers in an Executive they can pose as “statesmen” and portray the kind of image that will win them further electoral ground in the South.”

    Willowfield,
    The argument that you put and it is often made in the media and by Blair and Ahern, is one that often causes fury amongst many current and ex volunteers, who feel that they have always been respectable. And that by taking up arms and fighting for the reunification of their nation, they have both behaved in an honourable and respectable manner. So this type of argument does not wash much with the aformentioned. (rightly or wrongly)

    As to your second point, most people within working class nationalist communities can see what benefits the GFA has brought to the republican political elite, suits, cars, home improvement etc, material things. But they seem to be increasingly asking; and the longer this goes on the louder these questions will get. What would a deal bring to the non activists table within these communities, ordinary people, many of whom are often still disadvantaged. (As too are areas like the Shankill.)

    Best Regards,

    Mick

  • Vera

    I believe it’s called Holy Thursday in the United States too.

    I’m not from the United States. Any links to show its usage in the States?

    Could it be that Holy Thursday is peculiar to the RC Church, rather than to Ireland? Hence it would not be shocking for an Irish Protestant, or an Irish Jew or Muslim for that matter, not to have heard of it?
    (If so, it’s probably only used by RCs in the States, too.)

    As a non-Catholic American I can tell you that Holy Thursday is common usage here, not just by Catholics. It may have originated as an RC term, but it has spread and most protestants here use it as well. Most Americans probably have never heard of Maundy Thursday, and those that have probably learned the term from English novels or something. Interestingly, a Google search for Maundy Thursday also brings up a Catholic Encyclopedia as the first hit. So maybe Catholics in some places do say Maundy Thursday and the difference is regional and not necessarily a specific marker of denomination outside of Ireland?

  • Davros

    The argument that you put and it is often made in the media and by Blair and Ahern, is one that often causes fury amongst many current and ex volunteers, who feel that they have always been respectable. And that by taking up arms and fighting for the reunification of their nation, they have both behaved in an honourable and respectable manner. So this type of argument does not wash much with the aformentioned. (rightly or wrongly)

    Well-explained MH. Their position would be more tenable if they were seen to discipline those “who let the side down” rather than cherish and protect them. And before … same applies to the security forces.

  • Moderate Unionist

    Mick
    I don’t think WF’s point was aimed at the volunteers but at people yet to be convinced.

    Point2.
    The agreement is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it might be the end of the beginning.

    What happens afterwards is the critical thing. How can we improve life for the people of Northern Ireland. I don’t think it matters what class, or religous background you are from. The challenges affect us all; the impact of the global economy, the enlargement of the EC and need to improve the skills and education of the workforce to meet the demands of a post industrial society.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    “most people within working class nationalist communities can see what benefits the GFA has brought to the republican political elite, suits, cars, home improvement etc, material things. But they seem to be increasingly asking; and the longer this goes on the louder these questions will get.”

    Who are these people and where is this increasing questioning mainfesting itself? Surely not at the ballot box.

  • groucho

    I’m bored with the yes, no, maybe next week deal. Wake me up when it’s done.
    But re Maundy Thursday…doesn’t the queen distribute maundy money to pensioners that day? so it’s not just Catholic.

  • Davros

    The Queen is Catholic. She’s not Roman Catholic 😉

  • mickhall

    Pat wrote,
    “Who are these people and where is this increasing questioning mainfesting itself? Surely not at the ballot box.”

    Pat,
    I have been reading you posts on slugger for a long time; and your far to an intelligent man to believe that all opinions are expressed through the ballot box. I would have been interested to hear what benefits you feel this deal could bring to the ordinary nationalists/republicans. (if there is such a thing)

    Moderate unionist
    I agree completely with you last paragraph.

    All the best to you both,

    Mick

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Mick,

    it is a process, a very flawed process, but one that has yet to run its’ full course. With no viable alternative it’s the only show in town.

    Virtually every person I know in the Nort of the town believes that things are better now than they have been. Surely a benfit in itself.

  • mickhall

    Pat,

    I do not disagree with you, but Im sure I am not the only one to get sick of the continuos spin, some in the SF leadership put on it all and indeed at time’s the down right lies. (to there own constituency)
    Myself I cannot see why they have chosen to behave in this way, as SF’s core supporters have been over a long period as loyal as any political party could wish for. I feel the heart of this problem is that this SF leadership itself lacks real confidence in what it is doing, as they are only to aware they are far out on a limb from traditional core Republican values. The latter does not necessary make their strategy wrong, only time will tell, but it would explain all the sleight of hand, i.e. defeat is a victory, etc.

    All the best,

    Mick