Little hope of Assembly getting up and running

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.

  • Harry

    That’s rather an extreme outburst. Especially since this has been little more than an exercise in establising the facts about how many arms, and who has them, in society.

  • Billy Pilgrim


    “Yeah, dead on. Paisley pulled a laughable stunt years ago so nationalists feel uneasy.”

    It didn’t make me laugh. But it’s not that Paisley’s stunt in itself was significant – it’s that the stunt highlighted a very real issue. According to the figures kindly provided above by George (thanks, by the way George!) there are 144,500 legally-held guns in Northern Ireland. I am greatly concerned about how those guns might be used in the event of either community feeling that doomsday had arrived. Can’t you see where I’m coming from? If you have loved ones, surely you can empathise?

    “Nothing about how uneasy unionists should feel after being butchered left right and centre by nationalists for years.”

    If you want to use such broad and emotive nomenclatures, then surely we can all accept that both “unionists” and “nationalists” were guilty of “butchering” each other “left right and centre for years”? Surely you would accept that all that butchery was a bad thing? Surely you would accept that trying to prevent even greater butchery – possibly even a genocide (and I mean an actual genocide) – in the future is desirable? Surely you wouldn’t suggest that unionists, or any community, should be entitled to retain the means to carry out a genocide?

    I’m suggesting that all communities here should be deprived of such apocalyptic capabilities. Wouldn’t you agree? If not, why not?

    “You talk of legal firearms outnumbering the IRA arsenal by a hundred to one. How do you know that?”

    I was taking the figure of c.145,000 legally-held guns versus the now-defunct Provo arsenal of 1,500, which I was using as a broad guideline. In fact, with those Provo guns gone, the smaller loyalist arsenals and the tiny dissident arsenals mightn’t even amount to a hundredth of all the guns here. And that’s not even taking into consideration weapons in the hands of the security forces who, in 1912 and 1974, demonstrated their willingness to mutiny and collude with loyalists.

    So the 100/1 figure is only shorthand. It might be 110/1, it might be 90/1. The germane point is that that legally-held guns vastly, vastly outnumber illegally-held guns. I don’t think anyone would dispute that observation.

    “How do you know that unionists have more guns that nationalists?”

    All the evidence suggests it. The greatest concentrations of gun licenses are in areas which are predominantly unionist – Co Antrim, north Down and so on. Gun licenses are distributed by police – until recently nationalist alienation from police, and vice versa, was almost total, and it’s still widespread. Most handguns are owned by former security force personnel – who are overwhelmingly Protestant (and therefore statistically likely to be overwhelmingly unionist).

    It’s also one of those observations that you get in Northern Ireland that is rarely challenged, as everyone accepts it as axiomatic.

    “Is this not really about you wanting to grind the Protestant face in the dirt?”

    I don’t know where that allegation is coming from, but it’s not a reasonable interpretation of anything I have said. But let me reassure you: no, that most certainly is not what I want. I have tried to explain where I’m coming from. I can’t make you accept my bona fides.

    “Mallon supporter my arse – another sinn fein fascist apparatchik more like. This has drawn the thread away from the provos, just what you harry and lib2016 (no chance) wanted.”

    Maybe we should continue this debate after you’ve calmed down a bit.