Good start, outcome uncertain…

Excellent, grounded analysis (subs needed) from Frank Millar. After suggesting there is a new ground on which people can play politics, he punches through any complacency with a round of searching questions, that provide a more uncertain view of how the game might play out in future.

Gerry Adams is right about one thing at least: history will not judge kindly anyone who plays politics with a real choice between peace and conflict on the island of Ireland. Yet the Sinn Féin president might allow that the same holds true for him. In throwing out his challenge to the unionist leadership, Adams can probably be confident that the Rev Ian Paisley’s first response to yesterday’s IRA statement will not be his last. A huge responsibility rests upon the Democratic Unionist Party.

The challenge is double-edged:

At every point in this unfolding process, therefore, Paisley and his colleagues have to question whether that purpose is advanced or achieved by the exercise of veto and the politics of exclusion.

But:

However, Adams would be unwise to assume the outcome will be determined by the early British and Irish governments’ rush to judgment in the republicans’ favour. Ian Paisley’s leadership position is not the result of any accident of politics. It derives rather from the failure of a succession of previous republican initiatives to match words with actions.

Unionist scepticism, he argues, relates to previous failed attempts to get the Republican movement to come to this same point:

Likewise, last December, when the two prime ministers tried much the same trick on Paisley. They told a Belfast press conference that a historic DUP/ Sinn Féin deal breakthrough had failed on the sole issue of providing a photographic record of IRA weapons decommissioning. It was only subsequently, courtesy of Tánaiste Mary Harney, that we discovered the IRA had also resisted demands by the Progressive Democrats for a statement recognising “the need to uphold and not to endanger anyone’s personal rights and safety”

He notes that the British and Irish governments have questioned the extent of IRA activity, with McDowell’s accusation of the IRA as “an organised conspiracy, intent on continuing as a lightly armed gendarmerie”, and Ian Pearson’s charge “that the Provisionals ranked as possibly the most sophisticated criminal organisation in western Europe”.

He concludes:

After the bellicose and threatening language of IRA statements earlier this year, Blair can claim to have banished the threat of resumed violence on his watch. Yet even now, we have no settlement but the promise rather of more process. Right-thinking people will hope it eventually leads to accommodation and the new beginning promised in April 1998. But we should also allow that it might instead lead to a new point of divergence for politics in Northern Ireland.

  • Alex Kane

    As ever, Frank remains THE essential read on these matters.

    Best wishes,

    Alex

  • Jo

    An excellent and thoughtful piece of analysis, one should expect no less from Mr Millar and hopefully more of the same once the dust as settled.

  • Niall

    As ever Millar gives a self-congratulatory spiel from an Irish Thames / Unionist viewpoint. As ever Mick Fealty is tripping up over himself in praising Millar in the similar manner as he praises Ruth “the dud” Edwards (lovely opinions based on her exact knowledge of all 62.4mio French citizens and their voting on the EU Constitution).

    I defend this as “ball not man” that the article isn’t excellent or grounded as follows…..
    “Excellent, grounded analysis” grounded in London or is he now reporting from NI? If FM is writing from London then I conclude that M. Fealty considers the colonial view that London & Belfast are one and the same. I wouldn’t agree. However, before anyone mentions……I think one can hold opinion on NI and not live in the place, I just wouldn’t flatter such an opinion by calling it “grounded”. Should Millar be grounded from playing in Westminster …yes, they’re a bad influence on him and he on them.

    “history will not judge kindly anyone who plays politics with a real choice between peace and conflict” but haven’t those who have played politics to date with the cease-fire initiative 11 years ago (ie delaying any and all changes to NI’s society and politics) been allowed continue (without reproach) in the same vein to-date. Therefore, not pursuing peace, or in my view delaying the full implementation of peace (the aims of the GFA), thro filibuster and suspending the Assembly has been a unionist mainstay to date. This will probably continue thro lack of reproach from Westminster, Leinster House and the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish Thames & Sindo.

    “Paisley …. that purpose is advanced or achieved by the exercise of veto and the politics of exclusion” their policy of “Ulster says No” has never been held against them by the electorate and Westminster and therefore why change? Westminster has never worked to change the No-men thro the NIO as these securiocrats have had tunnel vision of there only been one opposition to peace in NI and that was the RM. Likewise the mentioned media and McDowell & the Blueshirts.

    “Ian Paisley’s leadership position is not the result of any accident of politics…. the failure of a succession of previous republican initiatives…..” I disagree. Dr No has maintained his position thro’ lack of opposition from Westminster, Leinster house and the mentioned media. Rarely, if ever, is it highlighted that he would like to bring NI back to the “good ol’ days” prior to the NICRA

    “…we discovered the IRA had also resisted demands….” aren’t all negotiations about give and take, meeting in the middle, no winners and no losers? Therefore why wouldn’t there have been resistance from the RM. Was it this that brought the hoped-for agreement to nothing…I think not as if it was then the two Prime Ministers and the Taoiseach (can’t the Irish Thames get a reporter who will communicate the official titles of the First Citizen of the land for which he’s supposed to be reporting ?!?!) have highlighted the breakdown by the RM rather than the DUPers

    “..Blair can claim to have banished the threat of resumed violence on his watch” Congrats to Tony – I give him his due.

    “…the promise rather of more process. Right-thinking people will hope it eventually leads to accommodation and the new beginning promised in April 1998…” and hopefully will lead to recognition of the great lengths that Grizzly and co. have traveled since the Hume/Adams talks and the cease-fire and their subsequent painting out of the picture of historical groundbreaking.