David Adams says in the Irish Times (subs needed) that there is little hope of the Assembly getting up and running by the set deadline of November 24th as Plan B is just too attractive for Sinn Fein (thanks for the heads up joinedupthinking).
According to Adams, in the absence of agreement, the DUP has the choice of going into an executive with Sinn Féin or “cede de facto joint authority over Northern Ireland – at least on a macro level – to the British and Irish governments”.
But he points out that this line of reasoning does not take account of some harsh realities:
“It assumes that Sinn Féin is willing to give allegiance to a Northern Ireland executive, when no such easy assumption can be made. In fact, all evidence points to the polar opposite being the case.
No matter the positive-sounding rhetoric or attempts to shift blame, on every occasion to date republican actions or inaction have caused the collapse of a working executive, or proved an insurmountable barrier to reinstatement.
At every turn, republicans have shown that their primary interest is in ensuring perpetual political and social instability reigns in Northern Ireland, rather than the opposite.”
Adams believes the evidence for this lies in SF raising tensions around the parades isse, refusing to make promises on decommissioning, Castlereagh, Northern Bank etc.
“In that way, they ended David Trimble’s political career and made certain that support for the Belfast Agreement among moderate unionists all but evaporated,” he says.
Instead, he sees the role of the seven powerful new “super councils” coming more and more into play in the future to make up the “democratic shortfall” and believes they pose serious dangers to unionism “in the continued absence of a working assembly”.
Citing an article he wrote in 2004, Adams says that “In the absence of a working assembly at Stormont the centre – or rather, centres – of political gravity, such as they are, will lie with the new councils.
“And in that situation places like Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Armagh . . . will be seeking to form co-operative cross-Border relationships on issues of mutual concern and benefit with their counterparts in Southern councils.
“Formal cross-Border co-operation will begin taking place on issues like planning, health, education, commerce, tourism, the environment, waste disposal and a whole range of other things that we can’t possibly foresee.
“Perhaps the current Review of Public Administration, given the conclusions it is bound to reach and the recommendations that will surely follow, is the Plan B (in case of collapse of the Belfast Agreement) that the two governments always denied existed.”
The argument is that as Sinn Féin is the only one of Northern Ireland’s major parties to have enthusiastically endorsed the setting-up of these seven super councils “it is little wonder, from a republican perspective Plan B, now fully unfolded, looks infinitely more attractive than Plan A (the Belfast Agreement) ever could. In the absence of an assembly, Sinn Féin is now virtually guaranteed control of what will amount to three or four semi-autonomous, border fiefdoms”.
“Come November 24th, all Sinn Féin will concern itself with is ensuring the DUP is blamed for the inevitable failure,” he concludes.