Why Unionists have little faith in Adams' Initiative

DUP councillor for Laganbank Christopher Stalford sends us the following article in which he lays out his own response to Gerry Adams’ appeal to the IRA to pursue the politics only route. It appeared in today’s paper version of Daily Ireland.

By Christopher Stalford

On the 20th May, the editorial of this paper said “Gerry Adams may not be able to state categorically that the IRA will respond positively to his pre-election call for the IRA to stick to the peaceful and democratic path, but he must feel, as the rest of us do, that there is a very real expectation that the IRA’s response will be positive and progressive”.

Speaking as someone who falls into the category of “the rest of us”, I have no expectations at all of anything approaching the positive or progressive from the Provisional IRA. Leaving aside the fact that Sinn Fein talking to the IRA, is the equivalent of me talking to myself in the bathroom mirror, it is clear to this Unionist that what we are in line for, rather than being the “seismic shift” or “positive and progressive” panacea being hoped for, is more words, more rhetoric and at best more stunts.

The DUP emerged from the recent Westminster and local council elections as the dominant party of Unionism, having built significantly upon our position from the November 2003 Assembly elections. We achieved that electoral success upon the basis of our manifesto.

That manifesto stated “whereas the UUP took the IRA on trust, accepted its word, welcomed its representatives into Government without one gun or bullet being handed over and all the while they continued with their terrorism and crime, the DUP required the IRA to jump first and end all illegal activity”.

When the Provo’s failed to step up to the mark in relation to decommissioning and criminality, the DUP’s judgement was vindicated completely, and in the theatre of civilised world opinion. The international consensus was clear as to who was responsible for the latest stall in the political process.

For the very first time, Sinn Fein/IRA, and not Unionism was being blamed for the failure to reach an agreement. This is because for the very first time, Unionism was being represented at the talks table by a party that would hold fast to its established pre-conditions for Sinn Fein/IRA’s entry into government.

It is this realisation of international criticism (Gerry Adams was reduced to touring the Irish bars in New Jersey at St. Patrick’s Day, rather than being feted at the White House) and possible adverse electoral results that has motivated Mr. Adams “initiative”, nothing less.

Am I the only person who finds it a little bit convenient that the exercise was launched a matter of days before the announcement of a general election? Could it be that it had more to do with the negative publicity facing Sinn Fein/IRA in the wake of the murder of Robert McCartney and the Northern Bank robbery? It is certainly hard to escape that conclusion.

Whatever the outcome of the Adams consultation exercise, Republicans will have to accept that the days of “we’ve jumped you follow” are over. Words are not enough, it’s time for action. There will be no return to the executive at Stormont for Sinn Fein/IRA until the process of decommissioning is completed.

That process must be fully visible, open and verifiable. IRA criminality must be ended completely: this would be assured by a quarantine period in which no criminal activity can or should occur, as a means of testing republican intentions. Violence and crime, regardless of its motivation have no place whatsoever in our society.

If Sinn Fein/IRA is hoping that the DUP will “do a Trimble”, be taken in by mere words and abandon our manifesto pledges they will be very sorely mistaken.

First published in Daily Ireland on Wednesday 8th June 2005

  • steve48

    “When the Provo’s failed to step up to the mark in relation to decommissioning and criminality, the DUP’s judgement was vindicated completely, and in the theatre of civilised world opinion.”

    Quite right Stalford, however now the real game begins. What you will find is that the Provo’s will deliver on decommissioning and and issue a statement to satisfy the world’s opinion. The pendulum will swing and the world will await your response. So will the rest of us.

  • Dr Snuggles

    I find this article encouraging. Behind the Trimble-bashing and bluster, Christopher Stalford – close to the policy-making leadership pf the DUP – has set the bar for Sinn Féin in government.

    “There will be no return to the executive at Stormont for Sinn Fein/IRA until the process of decommissioning is completed.”

    Fair enough – what’s the point of pursuing “totally peaceful and democratic means” with a few tonnes of weaponry up your sleeve. And that’s a far cry from ruling out a mandatory coalition.

    “IRA criminality must be ended completely: this would be assured by a quarantine period in which no criminal activity can or should occur, as a means of testing republican intentions.”

    That period can be dressed up as necessary for legislative change, and could be filled by a shadow Assembly.

    This article — combined with the sudden slew of pieces in the Daily Ireland from prominent republicans, urging the IRA to move off the stage — gives me real cause for hope.

  • Henry94

    Dr Snuggles

    I agree with you. It looks like we’re nearly there.

  • Bored

    Hopefully so. I have to say that as a Republican (in the French and not the Ardoyne sense) I do wish that Gerry would stick his boot up the arse of the slow learners in the bogs of Fermanagh, Tyrone etc. etc and bloody well get on with it. The way forward is so staggeringly self -evident that the Shinners risk further eroding their electoral power if they faff about any longer.

  • DCB

    Henry

    “I agree with you. It looks like we’re nearly there.”

    Again 🙂

  • fair_deal

    “It looks like we’re nearly there.”

    Hope so.

  • fair_deal

    If the provos pack up then it largely comes down to a question of timetable.

    If decommissioning is done in a credible manner to Unionist I think things happen quickly, if it is a manner suiting republicans then it will take longer.

  • peteb
  • Henry94

    fair_deal

    Unionists will not be the arbitars of the credibility of the process. Neither will republicans. The governments, advised by the DeChastelain commission, will.

  • spirit-level

    Are Republicans allowed to ask of Unionists that they “cheer-up” in the event of the IRA leaving the stage? I’m not all at convinced that a wholly adequate response from the IRA will brighten up the long-faces. Methinks there are deeper unresolved issues within Unionism, nothing to do with the other side 🙂

  • fair_deal

    Henry94

    “Unionists will not be the arbitars of the credibility of the process”

    Unionists are not bit players in the process so. It takes two to tango, therefore their assessment of the credibilty of decommissioning matters. They have made it publicly clear what will maximise public confidence among Unionists (in fact they accepted the governments’ compromise of witnesses and photographs instead of film footage), if that doesn’t happen there will be obvious consequences i.e. slower timetable.

    On the crdibility test of the governments, Unionism and the governments position is the same. The paper of the government and the Irish government in December required independent witnesses and photographs.

  • Henry94

    fair-deal

    The paper of the government and the Irish government in December required independent witnesses and photographs.

    That deal is dead. If the IRA decommission to the satisfaction of the commission then the pressure will be on unionists. If they are smart they’ll declare victory and get on with it. If they are not they will wait to be pushed into the institutions by the governments.

    I know which way I’m betting.

  • fair_deal

    henry

    Attempts at a fait accompli for a good process do not make. If the Provos do things to suit themselves Unionists are under no obligation to roll over and play dead.

  • Snapper

    Sorry to be a party-pooper – but the real question is whether or not a real willingness to reach across the divide to republicans actually exists. Unfortunately I don’t believe republicans have in their gift any repsonse which would satisfy Ian because he has absolutely no intention of going down as one who did a deal with the chucks. I would love nothing more than to be wrong and would gladly eat my words but bitter experience has made a cynic of me.

  • Snapper

    And another thing – can we please stop this condescending nonsense of bar raising or up to the mark because it is quite frankly insulting and hypocritical. Republicans have had their hands on power for a very short period of time and generally speaking handled themselves quite well. Unionists have been in power for generations and have been nothing short of disastrous. So if anybody is not fit for government or have failed to come up to the mark it is Unionism.

  • fair_deal

    Snapper

    If it makes you any more hopeful I think you are mistaken.

  • Paul

    If Snapper’s gloomy view of the DUP is correct, then Republicans have blown their chance for a settlement, by failing to make a deal with the Unionist leader who demonstrated willingness to take risks to deal with them. (It’s conceivable they didn’t intend to reach a deal so much as to push Unionists into a PR corner, and have them overridden by the two governments, but since that would not have worked on the ground, it seems unlikely).

    I hope Snapper is wrong, and the DUP will deal if their stated objections to paramilitary activity and criminality are met.

    I suspect that there is a pragmatic wing in the DUP (or in the “floating” voters who swung toward them) that would back such a deal – but only if the IRA really have gone away, as Gerry might have put it. However republicans frame the question, the unionist electorate evidently feels that it’s been burned once already.

  • fair_deal

    “speaking handled themselves quite well”

    If we leave aside the deabate on the Royal Victoria Maternity decision, De Brun was not a good ministerial performer she became a prisoner of her Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health (hence being packed off to Brussels).

    In general terms, opinion on McGuinness’s performance tends to be marred by whatever position you take on the transfer test but he did come across as interested and dedicated to his post. However in terms of Unionist attitudes, they aren’t exactly best pleased about the school formula he intitiated which discriminates against controlled schools (the reminscing to primary school children about days on the run didn’t strike them as a positve role model either).

  • Snapper

    Paul / Fair_Deal,

    I sincerely hope and pray that you are both right. I also agree that deal makers exist within the DUP, however, as long as the doc is in the driving seat I fear this process is stuck in reverse. I am not taking a cheap shot at Ian, I just don’t believe he has it in him to be pragmatic with Republicans – he has painted himself so tightly into a corner because of a lifetime of saying NO and NEVER that I fail to see how he can manoeuvre out of it.

  • Carrington

    Steve

    “Quite right Stalford, however now the real game begins. What you will find is that the Provo’s will deliver on decommissioning and and issue a statement to satisfy the world’s opinion. The pendulum will swing and the world will await your response. So will the rest of us.”

    Your tone would indicate that you are hoping things will go wrong for the DUP. Lets be honest Steven, even if they do, they couldn’t make much more of a pigs ear of it than you lot did.

  • fair_deal

    Snapper

    1. Paisley was more pragmatic during the period of the Northern Ireland Assembly (an often overlooked part of his career)
    2. Paisley has a trust factor in parts of the Unionist community others can’t reach – rather than the impediment he may very well prove the cement

  • Carrington

    Fair_Deal

    Point 2, is especially true. Who is really going to call Paisley a traitor in the street?

    Clearly people like Steven (see post above) are trying to position themselves to do just that, but coming from UUP members, cries of treachery sound really lame.

    If Paisley blesses a deal, it will stick.

  • Snapper

    Fair_Deal,

    Am I not right in saying that the term of endearment “Lundy” strikes a real chord within unionism? A term used almost exclusively by Ian. Again – I hope you are right.

  • Snapper

    Carrington,

    “Who is really going to call Paisley a traitor in the street?”

    Very interesting point – never thought of it like that before. However, I must go back to my original point – does he really want a deal?

  • DCB

    Snapper

    I tend to agree with you, I don’t think he hasn’t changed his spots

    What has changed is the position he’s in. Lots of ulster unionist leaders, Trimble, Falkner, have come in as hard liners commited to no surrender but have found themselves cajoled by the British government into doing just that.

    It’s the position that Unionists are in, the paradox of revolting against that which you profess loyalty.

  • Carrington

    Snapper

    What better way to end a political career than to deliver where O’Neill, Faulkner, Molyneax and Trimble all failed?

  • Paul

    On another tack:

    “De Brun was not a good ministerial performer she became a prisoner of her Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health…”

    Isn’t that what normally happens to ministers? Have you not seen Yes Minister and “Yes Prime Minister”?

  • Carrington

    DCB

    Loyalty to the state and its institutions i.e. Parliament, the Monarchy etc., respect for the government of the day possibly, but not loyalty to it or its policies.

    Unionists have no more of an obligation of loyalty to the British government (Tory or Labour) than the other opposition parties do.

    In the event of a hung parliament next time around, Unionists should prop up whichever party offers them the most.

  • Martin

    In December there was a significant act of IRA decommissioning,once it was completed Paisley upped the bar and demanded the photographs,he broke his word,in order to get a satisfactory outcome there must be public knowlege of what is being demanded and what is being offered and given .I have wrote about how I think this should be done at the end of the post Sinn Fein must win the peace alone,for any one who cares to read it ,would have posted it again here but it would have been too long to cut and paste,it does have relevance to this piece i think.There must be an end to all cloak and dagger back room deals–we all have a lot at stake in this not just politicians

  • fair_deal

    Paul

    “Isn’t that what normally happens to ministers”

    Not always. I remember having dealings with two different DUP ministers in the same department – one was a prisober the other was not.

  • Bored

    “Paisley has a trust factor in parts of the Unionist community others can’t reach.”

    Yes, those parts are in the gutter where most civilised, educated politicians would happily leave them.

  • fair_deal

    All are equal in our society and the gutter is hardly a place either community is unfamiliar with