It’s all a question of trust (or rather mistrust)

Eric Waugh argues that further progress is hampered by lack of trust. Without it, he argues, power sharing is simply not possible. He also believes that the governments’ attempt to push start a new round of negotiations is inviting the public papering over major cracks in the story that the IRA has no longer anything to do with major criminal enterprise:

What about the 45 tons of highly toxic sludge found in a stolen container on the Armagh-Monaghan border last week? Chemists estimate that it represented the leavings from the illegal washing of three million litres of smuggled diesel. This is not the sort of sideline run by a fellow with five pigs and two cows.

Police and garda appear to have no doubts about the reality of the continuing lawlessness on both sides of the border. Hence their increasingly tetchy exchanges with ministers.

For Blair and Ahern, the key problem can be bluntly put: it is that the fine print of which republicans are doing it may not matter to the unionists. Paisley’s logic is that he wants no part of them in government until the gangsterism stops.

Many are convinced that Paisley will never go into Government with Sinn Féin. They may be right. His leading lieutenants now have jobs and expense accounts, thanks to the party’s successes at the last election. So he knows their hunger for office at Stormont is allayed. He can afford to be fundamentalist on the republicans.

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  • piebald

    Shure when did either side ever trust the other ?

    The solution lies in working around the trust issues.

    I can’t see any progress myself for 3+ years until after General/Local elections and the new Super 7 councils get going.

    Until then much deck shuffling….

  • Russell

    “Eric Waugh argues that further progress is hampered by lack of trust.”

    If by “lack of trust” he means a failure of certain parties to to grasp that democracy is defined as the people choosing their elected representatives (Sinn Fein) then I agree with him.

  • pakman

    Russell

    being chosen by ones’ people does not automatically qualify a politician or party for office eg the Conservative Party since 1997 or the Liberals since 1918.

  • Henry94

    pakman

    being chosen by ones’ people does not automatically qualify a politician or party for office

    It does under the system the people of the north voted for. The real problem is that the British continue to indulge those who refuse to work that system.

    The decommissioning excuse has been removed and as predicted other excuses are being lined up. It is time the British recalled the institutions with appointed minister to cover for those who refuse to accept their responsibilities.

  • Henry,

    It’s clear the British are going to push some kind of interim solution. But I can’t see it flying if either SF or the DUP don’t want it. So we have a powerful mutual veto based on each other’s mandates.

    What surprises me is that anyone is genuinely surprised about all this, since the DUP has been laying a paper trail about its intentions from just after the suspension of Stormont in 2002. That paper trail gives them license to agree to power sharing but not with Sinn Fein, whilst the IRA continues to operate outside the law.

    This caveat is far from trivial. You may not believe that the IRA was behind the Northern job, but its offer to shot the alleged killers of Robert McCartney is an indication that it is not yet prepared to act under the aegis of the established law.

    Now, that’s its prerogative. And nothing in either its decommissioning act or its statement of 28th July interferes with that prerogative. But surely the DUP would be in breach of its own mandate if it were to settle short of concrete evidence that the IRA is no longer operating outside that aegis?

    If you take a sympathetic view of the intentions of the DUP viz a viz powersharing and (as Waugh suggests above) there’s no reason why you should, the ambiguity surrounding the bank robbery and the circumstances of Robert McCartney’s death has made it difficult for the DUP to sign up to a new dispensation.

    Even if you don’t, both of those events have made it easy for them to resist a deal in the short term at least.

  • Yoda

    Even if you don’t, both of those events have made it easy for them to resist a deal in the short term at least.

    This is an interesting point.

    You also seem to be suggesting that their mandate is to hold up functioning democracy in NI so long as it is “easy” for them to do so: is that really acceptable?

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, Yoda that’s a bit of a philosophical contraction. You’ve missed out the vital middle bits that made up my original equation.

    Besides the question of motive is purely speculative. The substantive point is that their mandate protects them from making the next move. As does Sinn Fein’s.

    A valid question might be: does either mandate compell either party to do a deal in any given set of circumstances?

    Tentatively, I suggest the answer is no. Sadly, whether you or I think that is acceptable is neither here nor there.

  • aquifer

    We can trust Unionist commentators to ignore the obvious. If Unionists could get their act together and negotiate with the ROI government, they could snuff out the Diesel rackets in an instant by equalising the fuel duty north and south.

    Unionists seem to now need the IRA more than Sinn Fein does.

  • Yoda

    Just cutting to the chase, Mick.

    Despite the paper-trail you mention, it seems to boil down to the same thing. It’s often been said by contributors to this site that unionists voted for the DUP in such numbers because they were the best option to stop what they saw as too many concessions being made to SF. Their manifesto refers to SF being in “the doghouse” and the DUP as having the “whip hand.” Their entire rhetoric of moving on without SF all reinforces that idea.

    They were voted in to actively obstruct a process that was seen to be conceding too much to republicans. I am agreeing with you: there’s no surprise on my part.

    does either mandate compell either party to do a deal in any given set of circumstances?

    I think any given set of circumstances is rather broad. When it comes down to whether or not an assembly should be up and running, I think the onus is on those who are being obstructionist.

    Sadly, whether you or I think that is acceptable is neither here nor there.

    That seems a little coy. I think a robust criticism of these types of mandates is acceptable.

    On their site they also say that if their “entry conditions” for “voluntary coalition cannot be met” they are in favour of

    ACCOUNTABLE DIRECT RULE

    If executive devolution cannot be set up on such a satisfactory democratic basis then the only option is to make Direct Rule more accountable and acceptable. We will work with the Government to provide the maximum accountability in these circumstances and attempt to integrate Northern Ireland more firmly within the United Kingdom.

    It sounds like the DUP aren’t too worried if a devolved assembly never gets off the ground.

  • heman

    This is yet another example of MOPEry from Waugh.

    Nowhere in his piece does he allude to the fact that unionists of all shades repudiate power-sharing FULL STOP wherever they are in power at local government level.

    The notion that ‘trust’ is the missing ingredient is merely utilised as a tool to point to the oppressed unionists, forced to live with CRJ operating in nationalist districts (incidentally, the fact that these oppressed nationalists almost universally embrace CRJ initiatives where they exist is politely avoided- ket’s not let the truth get in the way of a good Mope.)

    Absolute nonsense, and yet more evidence that unionism is nowhere near where it needs to be to embrace a renewed devolved setup here.

    When are the likes of Waugh and his co-MOPE heads at the Tele going to realise that nationalists have just as many reasons not to trust unionists?

    If nationalists were to adopt the same obdurate approach as unionists over political developments here, then they would not have even entered a government with unionism when unionism’s fellow travellers in loyalism were conducting murder and intimidation campaigns across Antrim and Down several years ago; nationalists could have walked from government when Unionists threw bottles of urine and bombs at catholic school girls on their way to school in north Belfast; nationalists could have rejected any prospect of a deal when loyalist paramilitaries alongside unionist politicians were forced through nationalist districts on parade, or (better still) when the Orange mafia held their righteous riot on the Springfield last Autumn with the tacit support (and, in some cases, explicit support) from elected unionist politicians.

    Sammy Wilson signalled that the DUP were many years away from getting into a power-sharing government on Sunday when he stated that the DUP would need legislation to curb nationalist ministers from exercising their executive powers.

    Ain’t gonna happen, Sammy. The DUP still long for a return to majority rule, as exercised on banana councils like Lisburn, Castlereagh and Ballymena. Here, gays and taigs know their place.

    Unfortunately for the DUP, time is marching on; the RPA will remove the little laager states and leave unionism with just three councils to exercise it’s manifest supremacism, albeit within equality constraints already condemned by Paisley as a sop to republicanism.

    Any return to Stormont will be with a power-sharing Executive with Sinn Fein as equal powers. Sure, the DUP will insist on calling for and getting passed useless Motions in the Assembly, but in their powerlessness to affect the decisions of nationalist ministers they will only confirm their actions as that of a dying monster, spewing it’s bile for one last time.

    Change is ahead, and the DUP would be better using it’s resources preparing Unionist people for a future where nationalism is an equal partner in the north, with all the political and cultural connotations that brings.

    Tiocfaidh ar la.

  • heman

    P.S.

    And, just so I’m not misinterpreted as engaging in some rhetorical republican rant, by Tiocfaidh ar la I’m actually referring here to the coming of a better future, characterised by stable government and mutual respect for unionism and nationalism in the north.

    I also actually believe that it will herald the beginning of a phase in Irish history which will culminate in political reunification, but only after an economic, cultural and social ‘unity’ of sorts has occurred at ground level.

    But maybe that arguments for another day (anmd thread, come to think of it!)

  • John Cosgrove

    Negotiation, advantage taking and brinkmanship are going to be the tactics on all sides indefinitely. Who is really going to be surprised at that? Henry94 would praise such tactics if they were displayed on his side of the house. Surely we need to get real.

    Democracy is about more than gaining a majority, never mind a ‘democratic mandate’ from a minority section of the electorate. It is fundamental that participants accept the rule of law, forswear illegal force and mean it. Where is the evidence that SF mean it? Continued criminality and intelligence operations mean the preservation of funds and military capacity. Now perhaps this is the price of keeping the physical force people on board. But even if so, it is comprehensible that in the meantime they should not be rewarded by a slice of government.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yoda,

    “Their entire rhetoric of moving on without SF all reinforces that idea”.

    Of course this has had its counterpart from Sinn Fein too. Just check out this Google site search of Slugger.

    It’s important to note too that the quotation above is at least their option three. It’s also 180 degrees away from its stated first priniciple that it is a ‘devolutionist’ party. But given lack of progress it is a likely outcome.

    What we have here is a Prisoner’s Dilemma. Neither side has permission to move without the other. More important, neither can move without the other.

    At the moment, it is hard to see what else can be done by anyone outside the two parties to move us on from the impasse. Paul Bew said years ago that expecting something positive to come from two such intractable enemies was like expecting peace and stability to arise from the Hitler/Stalin pact.

    Both extreme and extremely fitting, his statement remains to be falsified by either party.

    Worryingly for Sinn Fein, in the last year the sympathies of the wider audience have shifted quietly from away from it and, if not directly to Ian Paisley, then certainly towards Unionists in generality. Back in the days when the party was purely fundamentalist and unequivocally backed the IRA’s contemporary armed campaign, this would have made little odds.

    But in circumstances where the party has chosen purely political means as the way forward it needs credibility with those it seeks to deal with as well as the credibility it already possesses with its own electorate.

  • Bretagne

    Mick – I;ve lifted from your your last post – “a party needs credibility with those it seeks to deal with as well as the credibility it already possesses with its own electorate”

    The DUP have no credibility in power sharing with the SDLP – so that’s not happening – and the SF have no credibility with UU/DUP – both need a period of decontamination in any event.

    I also see nothing happening short term – but I wonder if that is Tony and Berties plan – roll with a shadow assembly (which will tee off SF) and roll really hard with the N/S bodies (which will tee off the DUP).

    The dynamic post May 2007 would then be that the DUP have failed to stop the NS bodies, and SF will have failed to get the institutions up and running – carrot and stick for both…

  • Henry94

    Mick

    I fully respect the DUPs right to stay out of government. Sinn Fein stay out of Westminister. But Westminister goes on and so must the executive. The DUPs mandate to remain out should not compromise anybody elses mandate to go in.

    They can’t have a veto on the institutions in the long run. At some stage the British will have to declare the time for excuses over.

  • Mick Fealty

    Henry,

    Maybe so. But for now, I beg to differ. For the reasons outlined above. Night all!

  • Yoda

    Of course this has had its counterpart from Sinn Fein too.

    I’m aware of that, Mick. But I was discussing DUP intransigence.

    And whatever one may think of SF, they are at least calling for the assembly to get up and running. It’s not totally obstructionist.

    But given lack of progress it is a likely outcome.

    I agree: I’m saying that given the obstructionist mindset, that No. 3 is, yes, the most likely outcome. I’m interested not so much in the “order” of the points, but what point is closest to what is actually done.

    Worryingly for Sinn Fein, in the last year the sympathies of the wider audience have shifted quietly from away from it and, if not directly to Ian Paisley, then certainly towards Unionists in generality.

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean here Mick (I’m also not sure I understand why your response to my post on the DUP boils down to a discussion of SF): what “wider audience” are you talking about here?

    Back in the days when the party was purely fundamentalist and unequivocally backed the IRA’s contemporary armed campaign, this would have made little odds.

    This is also a bit slippery: it sounds like you are saying that the political risk the PRM took is the origin of their current problems. Do you believe with the dissidents (and journalists like Ed Moloney, amongst others) that SF brought this on themselves through being controlled/ manipulated by the British intelligence services?

    Whatever is happening to nationalist politics in NI at the moment, it certainly is mind-bending.
    It’s put the most intransigent party in NI the driving-seat (to resurrect the car metaphor tossed around recently).

    To what end?

  • Mick Fealty

    Yoda,

    I’m knackered, so I won’t pursue this long.

    I been trying to deal with these issues in their proper context. That demands a critique of both parties to the impasse, not simply pinning blame on one or the other.

    I am not judging the IRA’s decision negatively. But there is no doubt it has changed the circumstances of the game. What could be done before, cannot be relied upon now. Of course in the unlikely event that the IRA decided to go back to war tomorrow, that would change the scope yet again.

    For all that’s said (and mostly not done), Northern Ireland is undoubtedly a better place for the IRA ceasefire. No one can seriously argue against that. But the party has already gained whatever political capital it was going to get out of it, and the process is now winding to an interminably slow close.

    If anything, Patten (aka, agreed terms for acceptable policing) is the outstanding issue now: both for Sinn Fein and every other party in Northern Ireland and beyond. My guess is that it will be a hard fought battle and take most of 2006 and a chunk of 2007 before it is resolved.

    Right, I’m definately off for the night now. Slan.

  • Yoda

    Okay Mick.

    Last point from me:

    I been trying to deal with these issues in their proper context. That demands a critique of both parties to the impasse, not simply pinning blame on one or the other.

    Waugh’s piece is couched almost exclusively in terms of the IRA’s smuggling activities and the DUP’s ability to say no because of it.

    As a result, it seems anything but even-handed: a nice big mention of alleged IRA diesel washing, and yet no mention of loyalist paramilitary status.

    He then finishes up by linking CRJ to crypto-IRA vigilanteism.

    I also don’t see any discussion of the reasons for SF’s objections to policing.

    It just didn’t seem very balanced to me. More like a litany of why the DUP can’t/ shouldn’t trust anyone.

    Sleep well.

  • aquifer

    The political system should not need ‘trust’ to be able to function. Tories trust labour?

    Here the governing coalition needs to include both catholic nationalists and protestant unionists.

    Simple enough

    Else no-one gets the ministerial cars.

    So long as the inclusive criterion is met, government should be allowed to function on a day to day basis with a comparatively low democratic threshold, as elections, the proper corrective, occur regularly anyhow. Politicians should be allowed to take risks to be inclusive.

    That coalition should not have to include all the nationalists, nor all the unionists, nor even have to command a majority of the votes in the assembly, in order to function.

    The coalition should only need 20% of each side to be allowed to govern, and a lesser fraction of the total sectarian votes. i.e. An executive of 50% Alliance and 20% SDLP should be OK, even if Alliance did not command 40% of the total assembly seats.

  • Yoda

    So long as the inclusive criterion is met, government should be allowed to function on a day to day basis with a comparatively low democratic threshold, as elections, the proper corrective, occur regularly anyhow. Politicians should be allowed to take risks to be inclusive.

    I find it hard to disgree with any of this…