DUP awaits outcome of ‘criminality test’

One of the instructive aspects of the recent documentary on David Trimble was the position of his former colleague Jeffrey Donaldson. In effect he said that the Belfast Agreement was a basically sound document so far as Unionists were concerned, except for three associated issues: the re-naming of the RUC; the release of paramilitary prisoners; and the issue of decommissioning. All of these are now (more or less) complete, Donaldson argues that his party simply needs time to ensure the IRA passes the criminality test. How long this particular piece of string is, remains to be seen.

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  • Chris Donnelly

    Of course, what Jeffrey omitted to say was that the biggest obstacle facing his party was coming to terms with the need to accept nationalists and republicans as equal partners in a future power-sharing Executive, with all that entails for accepting the legitimacy of the nationalist tradition – and, as this thread illustrates, the Ulster Unionists remain in denial about this one too.

    The local government Councils are instructive of how little effort the DUP is putting into preparing its base for the new realities with which it is inevitably going to have to live. Rather than easing their community into the reality of accepting Sinn Fein operating alongside their leaders in a DUP-sanctioned Executive, the DUP continue to isolate and exclude Sinn Fein where possible- nowhere more so than in Jeffrey’s citadel, Lisburn.

    How ironic it is that Jeffrey identifies prisoner releases as one of the
    three intolerable issues; this DUP figure seems to have done well out of it anyway.

    Whilst prisoner releases may not have been publicly deemed acceptable by unionist politicians, they should be honest enough to admit that they actually mean ‘republican prisoners’ being released as, clearly, the DUP had considerably less difficulty with the release of loyalist figures after the 1998 Agreement.

    Time may be necessary for the DUP to square this one with their electorate, but that time will come at a cost. Imagine the scenario even two/three years from now: Sinn Fein consolidated as an all-Ireland party with 10-14 TDs, with other parties looking to imitate their all-Ireland patent; the new seven super-councils set in stone and likely to elect three Sinn Fein and three DUP dominated Councils respectively, but also with power-sharing and equality provisions built into the legislation to prevent the abuse of power at local government level.

    Unlike five years ago, the DUP will not have the SDLP to provide them with cover when they finally decide to take the jump. If Paisley consents to the restoration of the devolved structures here, then it will be alongside Martin McGuinness or Gerry Adams that he will be sitting in the first meeting of any new Executive.

    Powerful stuff for a party which has yet to work out how to pass the ‘Portavogie test.‘ Whilst the British government may attempt to cushion the blow for the party- and we are seeing this currently through the appointment of the DUP-sponsored Victim’s Commissioner, the de-rating of Orange Halls, the financial packages for loyalist areas and the appointments to the Parades Commission- ultimately the DUP have a canyon to cross, and they aren’t making life easy for themselves by failing to properly prepare their notoriously suspicious grass-roots.

  • Keith M

    I agree (as usual) with Donalson, one of the most astute politician in Northern Ireland. I wouldn’t have seen the re-naming of the RUC as a key fault in the agreement, as long as any changes meant that the new police force gained support from everyone. This has still not happened and this needs resolution before any powers on security were devolved.

    Donaldson is quite right on the terrorist releases anddecommissioning. These two elements should have beeen linked in the agreement; no guns, no releases. Had this happened it might have saved the agreement.

    One element that Donaldson doesn’t mention and still remains to be resolved is designation. The idea of stamping MLAs as “Nationalist” or “Unionist” the days they enter Stormont, is not condusive to building cross community co-operation. Worse still is the way that those that don’t fall into either camp are treated as second class representatives.

    Donalson is again correct when he says that criminality is now the major obstacle for SF/IRA, if an executive has to be formed. I actually believe that SF/IRA understands this as last week’s hastilly released statment following the Meath raid proved.

    However, we cannot continue to live in an envioronment where “dissident republicans” are blamed for everything. If people were released under licence following the Belfast Agreement then the groups that signed the agreeement are responsible. SF/IRA and the Loyalists should be asked to vouch for every single pepson who was released. Are they still working under instructions or are they now “dissidents”. If they are in the latter category, then they should be made serve the rest of their sentences.

  • Comrade Stalin

    How long are we going to have to wait for the DUP to unequivocally support the police and condemn loyalist paramilitarism ?

    I’d like to see :

    – some sort of apology for the William McCrea/Wright incident
    – more support shown when the PSNI arrest loyalists, rather than condemnations. I’d like to hear the DUP state that loyalist paramilitaries must disband and stop their activities, or face ruthless pursuit and prosecution.

    any chance do you think, Keith ?

  • heck

    Criminality is just the latest excuse not to share power with Fenians. Until the governments face up to the fact that unionist bigotry is the reason there is no assembly and not the “arms/criminality/ he called us Nazis” excuses there will be no assembly, just a series of unionist hurdles.

    We have seen, in the past few weeks, an admitted murderer and British spy-Kevin, what’s in my contract, Fulton, interviewed on TV and the police ombudsman admit that almost the entire UVF leadership are British agents, yet it is republicans who are accused of criminality because thy buy their whiskey, cigarettes and diesel in the south.

    You can’t object to criminality and be a unionist because the British government is the biggest criminal of all.

    How about a independent monitoring commission to censure the Brits for not doing enough to root out criminals in the PSNI/UVF and the intelligence services.

  • Henry94

    KiethM

    If people were released under licence following the Belfast Agreement then the groups that signed the agreeement are responsible. SF/IRA and the Loyalists should be asked to vouch for every single pepson who was released. Are they still working under instructions or are they now “dissidents”. If they are in the latter category, then they should be made serve the rest of their sentences.

    What a strange idea. You want people locked up for no longer being in the IRA? And on the say-so of someone who tells us he was never in it.

  • heck

    i see in the Belfast bellylaugh today that a large number of PSNI/UVF members have been convicted of serious crimes.

    How are we going to penalize this organization?

    Perhaps we can fly the relatives of their victims to the US to meet president bush!!

    This whole issue of criminality is just one more, in a long line of excuses not to share power.

    Like arms criminality is an excuse not a reason.

  • TAFKABO

    Perhaps we can fly the relatives of their victims to the US to meet president bush!!

    I understood that Raymond McCord had already visited, no?

  • Keith M

    Comrade Stalin “How long are we going to have to wait for the DUP to unequivocally support the police and condemn loyalist paramilitarism ?”

    I don’t expect ANY party to give their unequivicol support to the police, however I do expect them them to provide a reasonalble level of support. There is a difference between supporting the police and giving them carte blanche and the same would apply in any country. Here in the Republic, Gardaí have been involved in some very dubious practices and politicans have (quite right) felt the need to question and criticise.

    As for paramilitarism, all parties need to be unequivicol in their condemnation. The days of John Hume’s infamous “I condem….but” statements should be long gone and the same applies to unionists.

    As for your little shopping list, we all have things we’d like. I’d like Adams to tell us why he claimed to be a leader of the IRA in the 1970s and 80s when negotiating with the UK government, and today he says he was never even a member. Was he a liar then, or is he a liar now. I think we alll need to know.

    Which leads me onto Henry. I don’t care who issues the statement on behalf of SF/IRA. I (and I think everybody else) just need to know which terrorists released under licence are still under the control of SF/IRA. They don’t have to be members (preferably they wouldn’t be) but we need to know who is walking the streets planning the next murder, attack, bank raid etc., that should rightfully be back behind bars.

  • Henry94

    KiethM

    A second reading does not improve your proposal. It still makes no sense whatsoever.

    A law obliging an illegal organisation to provide details about its membership would be an absurdity.

    Why not just pass a law winding it up?

    we need to know who is walking the streets planning the next murder, attack, bank raid etc.

    Have you seen the Tom Cruise film Minority Report? It deals with that whole issue.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Keith:

    There is a difference between supporting the police and giving them carte blanche and the same would apply in any country.

    In the past, the DUP have demanded that Sinn Fein give their full support to the policing structures here. It is a reasonable request, and I ask only the same of the DUP. Support needs to be unequivocal in that a balanced approach is taken to criticism of them; I’m not suggesting that they should be held beyond criticism by anyone.

    As for your little shopping list, we all have things we’d like.

    What I’d like is equal focus on the commitment to democratic means by all parties in Northern Ireland. Is that too much ? It’s not a “little shopping list”. People who condemn the police for interfering with paramilitary activity are inherently anti-democracy. I cannot see how such attitudes have a future in this country, can you?

    I’d like Adams to tell us why he claimed to be a leader of the IRA in the 1970s and 80s when negotiating with the UK government, and today he says he was never even a member. Was he a liar then, or is he a liar now. I think we alll need to know.

    It sounds like you’re erecting a new set of goalposts, Keith. I wonder if it will be a future DUP demand that Sinn Fein members admit their past ? In any case, in what way will an admission about Adams’ past help anything ?

    My point is about whether or not the DUP will stick to democratic and peaceful means. The DUP call themselves democrats and associate with paramilitarism. Don’t you think a little honesty would help a lot ?