On the need for trust before institutions

Tom Kelly ponders the importance of trust, and the lack of it, not simply between the parties in Northern Ireland, but between them and the British Government itself. He also puts a coherent argument against the downgrading of the Assembly to a consultative role.

…the British government seems to think that the trust issue does not affect them. Now there is a surprising British interpretation of native affairs. This is the same British government that ruined the middle ground of Northern politics by excluding both the SDLP and UUP from negotiations. Does Blair really think that Durkan and Empey would like to find themselves on a plane about to crash with Paisley and Adams, only to find that Jonathan Powell was in charge of the two remaining parachutes?

Does anyone think that the British/Provisional spy ring engenders much trust between Sinn Féin and the government? What about the families of Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson – do they and the rest of the nationalist community trust the government that wants to muzzle the truth out of any potential inquiry? Having watched Blair lure Trimble to his political demise does the prime minister think that Paisley will want to end his career in the belly of the Labour whale? Trust is something successive British governments would not know much about. It’s usually the first thing parked at the front door of Whitehall.

But further he puts a coherent argument why no nationalist, in Sinn Fein or the SDLP is ever likely to plump for a shadow Assembly:

From a nationalist point of view there is absolutely no reason to participate in what amounts to little more than a flattery forum. To enter an assembly as proposed would be an act of betrayal of anyone who voted for the Good Friday Agreement. The very minimum any nationalist should expect is that Irish ministers as well as British ministers should take to the floor of Stormont, either in committee or as a full house to answer questions relevant to cross border bodies and initiatives involving both governments.

To propose an assembly format akin to Welsh devolution even on a six-month basis would spell the end of the Belfast Agreement in spirit and law. If the assembly is recalled and if after six weeks it is incapable of agreeing an executive, no serious nationalist could disagree with the assertion by Martin McGuinness that it should be closed down and the two governments should implement a form of joint authority.

Anyone who has ever witnessed the (albeit high tech) tedium of watching the Welsh Assembly vote on proposed amendments to UK legislation will know precisely what he’s getting at.

  • fair_deal

    Is it not a clear contradiction to highlight the lack of trust and how it is hurting the process then say there should be an Executive in six weeks?

  • fair-deal
    I think its fear that might drive the DUP to do a deal.
    A Fear of what might happen if they don’t do a deal.
    For the first time the DUP are under some pressure, and they’re not used to it.
    I predict this 1st round up to 30th June will fail, but the in the summer cracks will appear, and by the autumn the arguements for opposing setting up an Executive will be so thin, it’ll be embarrasing for anyone bar Big Ian to voice.

  • Yokel

    I think Tom Kelly has a point in that trust in the British government is pretty low. What we have seen begins to feel more and more like Tony Blair’s vanity project, his place in history. I’m not sure that will carry. While politicians here can be criticised for being many things including useless gits, Blair appears to be using the place as a metaphorical trophy that he sees slipping away.

  • Yokel
    I think that’s unfair. Blair has done more for republicans than any PM ever has done.

  • Kathy_C

    posted by Kathy C

    Hi all,

    Maggie Thatcher wasn’t able to criminalize the IRA and 10 Irish Hunger strikers died….and the republicans hated maggie thatcher

    now we have Sinn Fein criminalizing the IRA and some republicans singing the praises of blair…my how things have change in a few years….

    As for the issue of trust…the brits and unionist use it as a way to get more concessions out of sinn fein and the IRA….

    In most parts of the world…gov’t is up and running and no one trust the other side. Do the Democrates in the US trust the Republicans…no…but they don’t make is such a big deal. Sinn Fein allows the brits and the unionist to make TRUST an issue.

  • fair_deal


    “I think its fear that might drive the DUP to do a deal.”

    This is a party that has pretty much been vilified by everyone else since it was founded so it can cope with a bit of government brow-beating.

    Kathy C

    “Do the Democrates in the US trust the Republicans…no”

    The Democrats aren’t “in” government with the republicans

  • lib2016

    One might even say that the real point of powersharing is that no-one trusts the unionists, not the British, not the Irish and certainly not the republicans.

  • Oh Dear

    cathy : “In most parts of the world…gov’t is up and running and no one trust the other side. Do the Democrates in the US trust the Republicans…no…but they don’t make is such a big deal.”

    Cathy do the the republicans in the US senate go out at night with balaclavas on and shoot and maim the democrats. how many have been jailed for murder and bombings. Do the same republicans in the US Senate, rob banks, carry out punishment beatings etc. The the republicans in our “senate” sure do.

    Cathy, please, please try to do some research before posting such inane crap.

  • kensei

    “The Democrats aren’t “in” government with the republicans”

    Not currently, no. But plenty of times in the past they have controlled Congress while there is a Republican President.

  • SpiceGirls

    The essence of the prob is the lack of credibility of SF. Lets be frank. They are the spokespeople of a terrorist organisation – one of the most bloodthirsty of the past 100 years, responsible for thousands of murders. They have made huge gains in changing the direction of the movement, and for this we must acknowledge. On the other hand, their rhetoric has changed little, and they have been found out telleng blatent lies once too often. They defend known criminals such as Slab, and they deny that the Ra could ever commit a crime. They are a joke.
    To be trusted they will have to start defending law and order, not just for their own suppoerters but for the province as a whole!!

  • kathy c

    posted by Kathy C

    Hi all,

    Spicegirls, I could not disagree with you more…I see the IRA as Patriots like the Patriots in America who stood up to the brits. War is war and people die. They did in our Revolution…
    Attorneys from all around the world condemed what happened to Rosemary Nelson…a woman who was a lawyer for a republican…and got blown up.
    I think before people condem the IRA they should look at the crown forces and what has been done to Irish men and women in the name of a british queen.

    right now I’m no fan of Sinn Fein however, infuring that they go around robbing banks and wearing balaclavas at night is a foolish statement if not maybe liable. Sinn Fein is filled with people who were too young to be part of the independence movement of the 70’s and 80’s. And are you infuring that Bairbre DeBrun a member ofo the European Parliment is a terrorist who has robbed and worn balaclavas? Who I see as a terrorist is Ian Paisly…using the EU parliment to declare the Pope is the anti-Christ…and when he marched and force his way down Garvahy road…laughing at the papist Catholics because there wasn’t any thing they could do about it….
    Maybe it’s time britain handed over the north of Ireland back to the Irish….they gave up Hong Kong and gave it back to the true natives…maybe the north should be given back to the true natives as well…the Irish.

  • urquhart

    Once again Kelly hits the nail on the head. Once again he captures the hearts and minds of the ‘real’ Mallon / Hume SDLP.

    Is ther no one within the SDLP today making the same case??

  • Oh Dear

    Kathy C, without being disrepectful you should worry about the problems you country is creating around the world at the minute, as well as the slaughter of innocents in vietnam, korea, need i go on. You and stupid americans like you filled the coffers of the IRA, who killed hundreds of innocent men, women and children.

    To help you understand, an anology is me saying I like Osama bin laden, he is a true patriot, he is fighting the evil oppressive american regime which has killed tens of thousands of his people. And as for sept 11th, how did you put it,oh yes “war is war, and people die”

  • Kathy_C

    posted by Kathy C

    Oh Dear, Your approach to Americans is very similiar to the Donaldson (the informer) approach. Tell us we should only discuss things we know in our country (America) and then put down America. I love my country-America- and one of the things I love most about my country is that we stood up to the brits and kicked them out of my country in our war of independence. and I hope and pray that some day all of Ireland will be united and the brits will be out of Ireland as well.