The long last stretch of negotiating track?

The Economist has some useful thoughts on what is likely to be the final stage of this vast game of political chicken. And Ian Paisley is taking his bicycle!

Britain and Ireland had hoped that the man most likely to lead a revived Northern Ireland administration would be tempted into power-sharing by the prospect of the top job. But Mr Paisley, who turns 80 in April, is not in a hurry. To friends he has likened his role in these talks to a leisurely turn on a bicycle: he is most intent on avoiding a speed from which he cannot turn around. The governments’ best bet may be that the IMC, having shown itself to be no pussycat, will persuade his party with a better account of the IRA when it next reports in April.

The other task is to convince Sinn Fein to join in policing. On February 16th, the British government will introduce legislation permitting the devolution of policing and judicial powers. A necessary but not sufficient condition for Sinn Fein (they will want to see how the powers are implemented before committing themselves), it will nonetheless give Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein’s president, proof to show his followers that things are moving.

In the end, the sheer weight of time may wear down opponents. Nearly 12 years have passed since the IRA first declared a ceasefire. Elections to the assembly are scheduled for 2007. Mr Hain says he does not intend to ask voters to turn out and elect representatives to a body that does not meet. He also says it is increasingly hard to justify paying the assembly members that already exist.

  • aquifer

    Paisley is winning the game, not that he ever passed the ball or scored a goal, but he blocks the goalmouth very effectively.

    The detested anglo-irish secretariat gone, direct rule by nice English men and women. Tolerance for terrorism in the west at minus zero. Bertie prevented from asking him to work with Sinn Fein in government by the obvious hypocricy of his own rejection of them.

    Riding his bike? He is having a picnic with DUP tea, wee buns triangle sandwiches and traybakes. Mullahs making him look more respectable, attendance at westminster burnishing his ego to a shine, his would-be successors paddling hard under the surface, keeping the DUP ahead of the old UUP. Sinn Fein on the lookout for the next agent, assets recovery operation, or the last 3 diehards with a pistol. And he can afford to wait. How many salaries does the man have?