Brian Walker acknowledges that both the DUP and Sinn Fein have made poll position in Northern Irish politics, but wonders whether they are not frittering away their leadership positions by not striking out for a clear future.
Of Sinn Fein he says:
Whatever happened to Sinn Fein detaching itself completely from the IRA? Last week saw Gerry Adams firmly impaled on the hook of Slab Murphy. He will stay there at least until the IMC lets him off it, whether or not the Manchester raids turn up proof of a Slab connection. The significance of the raids’ timing is not that they were set up specifically to rub Gerry Adams’ nose in it as he entered No 10, but that the authorities were prepared to take the risk of exposing him so soon after the IRA had finally disposed of its arsenal.
To defend Slab in one breath and in the next to go to discuss the appointment of a Sinn Fein minister of justice, shows just how radical a shift Sinn Fein needs to make before we get anywhere close to a settlement.
And the DUP:
The DUP start the parliamentary session with a temporary tactical advantage, buoyed up by the creation shortly of three DUP peers and Ian Paisley’s symbolically significant appointment as a privy councillor – a “Rt Hon” – as the leader of the largest party. But that advantage will begin to run out, assuming the IMC passes a favourable verdict on the Provos. While the DUP can fairly insist on high standards of compliance, they would be well-advised to take the fact of IRA decommissioning seriously. No doubt they have telling points to make about missing Florida guns and the curious legal procedure for letting the OTRs go home.
No doubt, too, they’ll get their share of sweeteners. But concession politics won’t work for them now as well it once worked for Republicans. For one thing, the DUP haven’t got guns as leverage or the same influence with paramilitaries. For another, delivery time is now arriving for everybody. And obvious filibustering with 64 page documents will only exasperate the governments and encourage intransigence among loyalist paramilitaries.