Negotiations: another day one

The horse trading begins with meetings at Downing Street today, between Tony Blair and each of the only two serious players left in the game – Sinn Fein and the DUP. How long will it take. Sinn Fein want the DUP to talk with them face to face now. But the DUP are playing this long. One senior source in the party joked yesterday that it may not take four months, so much as four years to do a deal. But of course, this is politics and things can change, for the better or the worse.

13 thoughts on “Negotiations: another day one”

  1. So the list reached 64 pages. I think it’s positive that it’s been written down and I hope that the DUP publish it.

    Regarding the military I have an idea. What we do is consolidate NI’s contribution to the UK armed forces in an integrated Northern Irish Brigade made up of three infantry battalions (bringing together the Irish Guards and the RIR) with a squadron of cavalry and various support companies.

    Incidentally that’s the revised structure of the IDF land forces which is composed of three brigades – Eastern, Southern and Western.

    The Northern Irish Brigade could then work in with IDF UN missions and provide exchanges as per the PSNI.

    All NI recruited servicemen would be stationed in NI.

    I wonder how that’s play with the DUP and SF?

  2. criostoir

    I am inclined to agree with these ideas. I am not concerned about ‘home service’ batallions but would like to see the RIR having its headquarters in NI and being locally recruited and locally trained to fight in all parts of the world, not just NI.

    As for the other DUP demands, I very much agree with the balloon that Peter Robinson raised at the Tory party conference: the structures for voting in the asssembly must not be cast in stone. They must be time limited and up for review – we need to move away from sectarian designation.

  3. ” One senior source in the party joked yesterday that it may not take four months, so much as four years to do a deal.”

    jeez, NI in limbo for another four years with Direct Rule ministers neglecting us and a part time secretary of state…thats not really something to joke about.

  4. Slug,

    I agree on the Robinson point but if we are to move to straightforward majoritarian rule we need an system that rewards moderation and fence crossing. On an earlier post I said that I think the NI situation cries out for the alternative vote method of election – ie a directy elected NI governor, county lord mayors and town mayors.

    The twist I would add for the NI situation is that the runner up for the direct position would automatically become leader of the opposition whether or not they had won a council or assembly seat in their own right and would have certain powers to enforce chacks and balances – perhaps to insist on review of executive and legislative behaviour against an NI constitution (which in turn could only be amended with the consent of both governments). I’m not enough of a lawyer to know whether the judicial review process might be appropriate.

    It’s my hope that a progressive or at least moderate vote could then be consolidated through transfers between the SDLP, alliance, green and liberal unionist constituencies. As an example (but I’ll confess it’s my preferred outcome) an SDLP runner for NI governor who only had 25% of first preferences might sweep up (in turn I’d guess) the green, alliance, moderate UUP and SF or DUP votes of people who’d rather see him or her win that either the DUP or SF second place.

    Ever come across a modelling of that scenario?

    I think we need such a process to allow the people of NI to choose a compromise position at the ballot box.

  5. Criostoir

    I rather like the AV system and I also like formal opposition systems – so that there are alternative governments in waiting. Id like the system to have several features – it should be fluid enough not to ‘copperfasten’ the sectarian division we have and to allow us a way out of it, it should be sophisticated enough to require in practice participation in government of those who are from both unionist and nationalist parties, it should permit an opposition or alternative government in waiting to those who hold office and it should encourage moderation compromise and cooperation.

  6. when people agree with me I worry that some day I’ll have to actually get involved in this stuff instead of just waffling away on web-sites.

    jeez – I’d better dig out the golf clubs and get down to the garden centre.

  7. Could I suggest the following :

    1) a legislature whose membership reflects the size of the society it serves and not whose vast numbers are designed to secure election of fringe parties. Given the Scottish (127) and Welsh (60) examples could I suggest 54 ie 3 MLAs per Westminster constituency ?

    2) the removal of sectarian designation of said members.

    3) a number of government departments dictated by the needs of good government rather than sectarian carve up. Again if I may be so bold, I would suggest six departments at the very most.

    4) any executive would be bound by collective responsibility and not comprised of quasi autonomous barons. That exedcutive would need to submit a program for government and its make up to the assembly for approval by weighted majority to ensure community balance. The largest party to vote against this would then form the official opposition.

    5) any executive action which steps outside the approved program would require a weighted majority to be carried. All other decissions can be taken by simple majority.

    5) the leader of the largest party within the executive would be First Minister, the leader of the second largest party would be his or her deputy. The roles and responsibilities of FM/ DFM would be defined within the program.

    Strand One in 5 simple steps.

  8. Could all you would-be sytem designers come up with a mechanism of how to get face to face talks started.
    That would be impressive!

  9. “(bringing together the Irish Guards and the RIR)”

    You obviously know little abouth the structure of the Brtish Army, to lump a ‘chippie’ infantry regiment in th same brigade as a Guards regiment would be unthinkable within army cirlcles! Any way, the irish guards main recruitment areas are liverpool, birmingham and london. There are reletivly few irish/norn irish men within the ranks.

    Just pointing out a few holes in the idea there!

  10. “2) the removal of sectarian designation of said members.”

    I don’t think that’s realistic. It didn’t take the GFA for people to start considering themselves as “them and us” in the first place.

  11. jamesd,

    thanks for the learned opinion. I guess we’ll have to scrape together the third battalion of the northern irish brigade where we can – although the snobbery of the guards doesn’t seem to have prevented them from joining armoured brigades with non-guard infantry battalions in germany and iraq in recent years. and regarding recruitment a dublin recruited guardsman was recently buried in the republic (with IDF (FCA) and British Army representation at the funeral). Not sure where he signed up. liverpool perhaps?

    anyway I still think it’s a spiffing idea. solves the DUP problem and provides a local entity which interlocks neatly with the republic’s set-up and one with which we could all hopefully identify.

  12. Brian Boru

    but the Belfast Agreement institutionalised it.


    as far as I know you can sign up for the Irish Guards (and any other regiment) in Holywood, Ballymena or Lisburn. I suspect you can do it on-line if you wish. A much simpler proposal would be to merge the Home Service Batalions into a new second batalion of the RIR available for world wide service. This would satisfy the Armys’ current demand for larger regiments. Each batallion could then be based in NI along with the third proposed peacetime batalion. No need to “interlock neatly with the republic’s set-up” IMHO.

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