Sinn Fein will work in the Assembly

Gerry Kelly has said Sinn Fein will work the Assembly, but will not participate in any function outside that ascribed to it in the Belfast Agreement. Does that sound like the none too subtle dropping of a timetable for restoration?As is often the case Sinn Fein is notoriously hard to interpret in such tight situations; their statements are often more important for what they don’t say as what they do. On Saturday for instance Pat Doherty sounded as hard line as ever:

We believe that the suspension should be lifted and the Assembly reconvened to elect a First and Deputy First Minster and the appointment of Ministers. If this fails to happen then the Assembly should be scrapped and the salaries paid to the MLAs should be withdrawn. The governments should then proceed with all of the outstanding aspects of the Agreement.

But the demand for a rigid timetable for re-introduction of the Executive has gone, and appears to have shifted onto a more pragmatic call for the functions of the Assembly to remain as per the original. The outsiding problem – ie the six week deadline can be dealt with by the UK government in terms of the new legislation being planned by Secretary of State Hain.

So, latest predictions?

The smart money is moving towards Spring 2007. That would leave everyone just enough time to prepare for the next Assembly election in May. In addition Sinn Fein will be in full cry for the General Elections in the Republic. If that’s the way it goes, Sinn Fein get a timetable that they might very well have planned for – virtually synchronised elections North and South.

Whilst the DUP get the kudos for the IRA’s disarmament and the sense that in the end, Sinn Fein has slowly come onto their ground in the end.

So was it crafty piece of win-win manship or an accident of destiny? You decide.

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  • Pete Baker

    “The smart money is moving towards Spring 2007.”

    Hear that whooshing sound, Mick?

    It’s the November 24th deadline going flying by..

  • Keith M

    It sounds like we have an answer to the ago old question. In the face of the irresistable force, the immovable object moves.

  • The Beach Tree

    “But the demand for a rigid timetable for re-introduction of the Executive has gone, and appears to have shifted onto a more pragmatic call for the functions of the Assembly to remain as per the original.”

    Mick

    Wher’s your evidence of this? There’s nothing in the Telegraph to suggest this change of approach?

    And surely “the fucntions to remain as per the original” IS the rigid timetable?

  • Mick Fealty

    TBT, as I’ve said above, I’m only going on what I don’t see, rather than what I do see. There is no evidence one way or the other. You could be right, and I might be wrong. Just call it a hunch.

  • maybe its a flexible interpretation of a rigid policy..

  • The Beach Tree

    Mick

    Fair enough. I would have thought a ‘call’, had to be explicit, to be a ‘call’.

    I can’t see such a difference personally. To me Mitchell’s statement, whether laudable or not, seems pretty clear evidence of ‘the other’.

    ‘Run d’Hondt to destruction, then wind the assembly up.’ That is ‘running the assembly’, at least as far as SF are concerned.

    I thought the whole point of the proposed plan A was to allow for 6 week periods to be run consecutively, rather like at the beginning.

    To be honest, it all seems a wee bit like wishful thinking?

  • Glen Taisie

    Gerry Kelly was on yesterday’s “Politics Show”

    “Naaw,lets make it absolutely clear that that we will NAT be working in anyway outside the Agreement”

    While he has a good televisual presence he is terrible at listening and never engages debate other tha nwhat he has been told to say.

    .

  • yerman

    Sinn Fein always play fairly fast and loose with what they believe to have been inside or outside the Belfast Agreement so I wouldnt get too worried about their concerns about an Assembly without an Executive.

    They would stretch it to the bounds of credibility where they will say that the Agreement didnt specifically rule out that possiblity so therefore it must be part of the Agreement.

    All in all Sinn Fein are slowly coming round to entering a Shadow Assembly. Something they specifically ruled out doing. Its clear that the Shinners dont do quick u-turns though They’ve been maneuevering on this one for well over a month now.

    Any futher predictions from Pat McLarnon?

  • Mick Fealty

    TBT,

    I thought that ‘notoriously hard to interpret’ would have covered it. 😉

    …it all seems a wee bit like wishful thinking?

    I think most of us who’ve been watching this business from the outside have long ago given up ‘wishing’ for any given outcome.

    The RPA enhanced councils still look as good a bet as a rejuventated Assembly and Executive. From a governance point of view, it might be more desireable to one or the other but not both.

    If the Assembly breaks, I don’t see anyone in the DUP panicking. They can, after all, claim that the Belfast Agreement is thoroughly dead and buried.

    As for Sinn Fein, they can always fall back to the demographic argument, not to mention their banker for much of the last ten years: lack of serious competition from their Nationalist opponents.

    If it’s a genuine document, activism rather than governance seems to have been the theme of the Gulladuff strategy piece. So perhaps we should expect to see tactics aimed at destablisation of Northern Ireland rather than re-newed political engagement with their opponents?

    None of us can say with any certainty, until real events show up and put substance to speculation. But I’m arguing there has been a sea change in the rhetoric at least. If it doesn’t say they want time bound regulations, they are leaving space for that to happen – or, if the internal politics require it, retract without any perceptable damage.

  • The Beach Tree

    “If it’s a genuine document, activism rather than governance seems to have been the theme of the Gulladuff strategy piece. So perhaps we should expect to see tactics aimed at destablisation of Northern Ireland rather than re-newed political engagement with their opponents?”

    My guess. All back to the laager.

    Ireland has erupted in violence at relatively predicatable intervals for nearly 300 years, predating even Union, and regardless of world events and pressures (WWI anyone?).

    Sadly, I don’t personally see that pattern changing

  • The Beach Tree

    “But I’m arguing there has been a sea change in the rhetoric at least. ”

    Slight alteration, arguable. Sea Change, hopelessly overstated.

    TBT

  • Mick Fealty

    TBT:

    Well, I’ll happily concede that none of these issues are exactly epic.

    It’s only a sea change (lower case) in terms of what was being said a few weeks ago. Indeed, someone had to change if there was to be a chance of anything moving on.

    Though I would only not that it springs more from a knowledge that ‘the last man holding the ball loses the game’, than any wish for rapprochement.

    I was nterested in your ‘laager’ remark. Care to expand/

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    ‘Any futher predictions from Pat McLarnon? ‘

    I have made one prediction on this one subject.
    This is a circular argument, why would one want to make any further predictions?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    BBC NI are now reporting that following talks with Blair at Downing St Martin Mc Guinness has stated that SF will play no part in a Shadow Assembly.

  • ingrammartin

    Pat,

    Quote”BBC NI are now reporting that following talks with Blair at Downing St Martin Mc Guinness has stated that SF will play no part in a Shadow Assembly

    God loves a trier

  • The Beach Tree

    Mick

    I suppose my argument on the laager point is that as cross community politics has been seen to fail, so in-community activism, and attendent violent confrontation, is going to escalate. Politics has rarely seemed so ‘ethnic’.

    Despite all the crying on this and other sites to the contrary, SF and DUP continue to grow at the expense or moderate alternatives. And frankly even those moderate parties are becoming more insular. The Alliance decline makes it obvious. There simply is no sizeable middle ground. To that extent, the “wouldn’t it be great…” experiment has failed.

    If anything, from the nationalist side, the only change I’ve noticed has been the general concensus that it’s ‘not the brit’s fault, it’s the unionist’s fault’. Hardly a warming development.

    I don’t believe , for good or ill, that this has left to any acceptance of the validity of the unionist position, only that they are now seen as the foe, not the british State. (I’m not sure unionists realise how periferal they were seen as by nationalist all these years. They aren’t now, but I’m not sure in the long term that the readjustment is a good thing)

    It’ll be a herculean effort to change that, and neither side has any interest in, or strength for, such labours.

    To my mind they are both girding their loins for perceived larger long-term battles around ideas of cantonisation, repartition, joint management, elections north and south, and border polls. Cross community assemblies must seem small beer in such pre-apocolyptic days.

    Whether it’s true or not, both sides have seen their opponents revert to ‘type’ – Unionism (through DUP) to bigotted intransigence, Nationalism (Through SF) to chronic violent irredentism. And of course each party is their enemy’s perfect excuse.

    As one wag said to me recently “For a very short time they agreed to be opponents. Now they’ve gone back to being enemies.”.

  • Yokel

    Beach Tree, I just love yer optimism.

    You seemed to be suggesting violence could be inevitable again. As bad as that is, it would never get to the level of the early 70s and i suspect the security response who whoever breaks the ‘peace’ will be rather less indulgent than before. As odd as it sounds maybe thats the clear out that is needed.

  • slug

    Maybe it is accurate that unionists are seen as the “problem” for Irish nationalists? And maybe both sides just have to come to terms with the other, and develop a modus operandi, which will eventually be based round the Assembly. I believe that is what will happen, in the end, the DUP want the assembly but want one with more safeguards than the last.

  • The Beach Tree

    Yokel.

    My optimism or otherwise is irrelevent. I’m either right, or wrong, and only time will tell.

    I don’t believe violence is inevitable. But I think in the long term it’s likely, unfortunately. And I wouldn’t be so sanguine about security responses. Iraq is certainly showing that vast superiority in arms might buy you victory, but it doesn’t buy you peace.

    And no one will ‘break’ the peace – an odd seemingly random event will catalyse it so that both sides can claim we didn’t start it. That’s what has always tended to happen.

    I just think a lot of the optimism that it can’t go back is based on hystoric miopia and wishful thinkning.

    slug

    The problem with your analysis is that it presupposes that everyone values peace above all else, and so waill eventually play ball. I don’t believe that’s true. THere are plenty of both sides would slit their own throats rather han come to terms with each other, never mind anyone else’s throat.

    I think the votes for SF and the DUP show neither tribe has any particular interest in a modus operandi with the other. AS I said, back to the Laager.

  • DK

    TBT,

    I don’t think that the voting rush to the extremes (DUP & Sinn Fein) is symptomatic of society becoming more extreme. The UUP went ahead with an agreement and were unable to show any goods – resulting in the votes going to their opponents, the DUP. In nationalism, Sinn Fein has showed that it can get the goods, and by ditching it’s arms/army is approaching the SDLP and therefore taking voters.

    So the DUP have got votes because the UUP failed to deliver; and Sinn Fein have got votes by moving towards the centre.

    The UUP can get votes back as easily, if the DUP slip up (e.g. an unseemly power struggle after the Doc’s demise); and SDLP could get votes back if a few of Sinn Fein’s better hidden skeletons fall out of the closet (e.g. an MLA found with a load of Northern Bank notes and the keys to Slab’s torture chamber). The Alliance can hope that demographics are with them as more people fall into neither the prod or taig camp.

  • The Beach Tree

    dk

    It’s an interesting analysis, but while well argued, I don’t buy it. SF and DUP voters know what they are voting for, and against. And both sides, as i said, believe the worst of the other side’s voters intentions.

    Both SF and dUp if anything or now afriad of being outflanked on their extreme wing! The DUP publicly so, SF more privately.

    And as more people have fallen into the ‘neither’ camp the alliance vote has actually decreased!

    Mainly because if you don’t like the ‘constitutional’ question, you’re going to choose a party that ignores it, not one that obsesses about not answering it.

    (you can’t call the border irrelevant then base your party’s entire appeal on your stance on that question, even if the stance is a refusal to pick sides.)