Blair to announce road map within weeks?

So Bertie and Tony have had a chin wag and agreed that ‘something must be done’ (to quote Daniel Webster). The British PM is to make a speech in a few weeks time to lay out a practical road to back to devolved power.Mark Brennock has the key stumbling block in the third paragraph:

The governments will be watching Sinn Féin for any signal that the party is willing to sign up fully to the North’s political institutions, and watching the DUP for any indication that they will contemplate serious talks towards renewed power-sharing with Sinn Féin.

However, Blair clearly understands this is not going to be a sprint start:

It’s very hard to see every last little bit fall into place immediately,” said Mr Blair, apparently anticipating a more equivocal report. “We watch the one in a few months’ time. It’s important that we see incremental progress and we do not see any sliding back.” He hoped to see “no obvious and evident breaches” by the IRA.

  • Seano

    I don’t think anyone is under the allusion that, Blair is going to make any groundbreaking speech next week. It will probably be more of the same old “we must make progress” shite. The quote below is probably how things will end up anyway.

    “It is a rich irony that after being branded a unionist-controlled Apartheid statelet for its first 50 years, perhaps the best longer term hope of moving the North forward seems to be in the emergence of a “separate but equal” executive which divides power between the hardline wings of Republicanism and Loyalism, but does not share it in the positive sense.

    This is the preferred option of Rev Paisley’s DUP as it quietly floats the underlying idea of de-coupling the posts of first and second ministers to allow a form of power sharing to emerge after a suitable “quarantine period” for Republicans, and thus be able to claim they have not given in to the IRA.

    In a clear breach of the Good Friday Agreement, the executive would be run on sectarian lines with complete demarcation between the two top posts.

    An intriguingly timed spat between the PSNI and Northern Ireland Office over whether IRA members are still involved in criminality has given the DUP cover to manoeuvre ahead of the Independent Monitoring Commission’s report early next week which is expect to give Republicans a mainly clean bill of health.

    Mr Ahern and Mr Blair expect the IMC report will indicate that the IRA, with a number of qualifications and reservations, is generally living up to its pledge to end paramilitary and criminal activity.

    The next four weeks will determine the course of the next year as the political focus burns into the North with an intensity not seen for nearly half a decade.”

  • JD

    This is the test if there will or will not be progress. Blair must outline a scenario that if the DUP continue to block the institutions the alternative will be very unpalatable for unionism ie. at least joint authority. This is the only road map that will light a fire under the DUP. Anything less spells disaster for the process and I fear a downward spiral.


    Excellent, two posts in and already it’s all “themmuns” fault, or is that “ussuns”?.
    The one constant in Northern Ireland politics is that no one thinks they are responsible.

  • Pete Baker

    Not much evidence that Blair and Ahern have any idea what a practical road back to devolved power would look like.. I suspect all they have planned is another series in the ongoing series of talks about talks.. while NIO Ministers spin in the background.

  • seabhac siulach

    So, if I understand correctly Blair is already conceding that the coming IMC report will not be enough for progress and is saying that we must wait for a further report in, what, another 6 months (he mentions ‘a few months’)? But, by then we will be into July, so no discussions then, nor in August (for obvious tribal reasons). So, are we all to wait until September, again, and hope that nothing crazy happens over the summer? It is like deja vu, all over again as the man said…
    And then, in September, can we hope for talks? Not if recent history is any guide. It would make a saint weep, the slowness of it all…
    And in the meantime direct mis-rule continues. This was not in the script of the GFA, nor in the script of the ceasefires…

    So much for Blair claiming that this was a decisive year for the ‘peace process’ (what process?).

    “It’s very hard to see every last little bit fall into place immediately,”says Blair. Since when in negotiations did every last bit have to fall into place before talks could begin…isn’t that the whole point of negotiation?

  • smcgiff

    Crystal ball time – After positive IMC reports UK government announces a deadline for the setting up of Devolved government under D’hondt. Any party that does not wish to take up their quota will have a direct rule minister in the position they decline.

    Therefore you’ll have a combination of direct rule ministers and local ministers in the devolved assembly.

  • Pete Baker
  • eranu

    like that idea smcgiff. would have to be a really clean report on the IRA though. then the pressure on the DUP to join in would be fair.

  • “NI faces a number of significant economic and social challenges. It cannot afford either complacency or prolonged stalemate”

    So no predictable cliches in the Blair/Aherne statement then. How many times have we heard all this before? Unfortunately it looks like complacency and prolonged stalemate are here to stay for the time being at least.

  • smcgiff

    Exactly, Eranu. No pressure at all 😉

  • peteb,
    The statement was big on trust and confidence; and balanced unionist fears and concerns with the need to return to devolution, for the good of all.
    “Whatever the practical difficulties involved after such a long period of conflict” is a reference to SF to get on the policing board.

  • The Devil

    Road map for peace,

    Up Gt.Victoria st turn left at the Grosvenor rd come to the westlink roundabout and turn right head for M2 motorway take the M2 as far as the Airport turn off, go to the airport reception and book a flight to anywhere but Iraq… and you should be ok.

  • seabhac siulach

    Ah, I see, we now ‘only’ have to wait until April…so my previous post is superfluous.
    Oh well.

    Is there enough time between April and July (when everything has to hibernate for 2 months) to apply pressure of any sustained kind on the DUP even in the event of a whiter-than-white subsequent IMC report next time out? Hardly. So, we are looking to September, probably, in any case…
    That of course is assuming that ‘crime’ of all kinds has ended in republican areas by then.
    Which is, of course, as it has always been, a subjective political call, as one has to differentiate between crimes carried out by individuals, who were or are IRA members, for their own profit, and those carried out by other individuals solely on behalf of the IRA and given sanction by it.

    I look forward, in the meantime, with some anticipation it must be said, to the next crisis that is sure to occur some time between now and April. The have a strange habit of occurring just when it looks as if the DUP might finally come under even just a hint of pressure.

    smcgiff and eranu…ye are too optimistic by half…