A busy autumn ahead

No doubt with an eye on Noel McAdams article, the Belfast Telegraph has a look ahead towards that November 24 deadline and assesses the DUP’s apparent new attitude.. and what it could mean for the prospects of successful devolution. One thing that is certain [about the only thing that’s certain – Ed], as Mick pointed out, is the necessary tentativeness of the speculation.

From the Belfast Telegraph –

If the DUP is convinced that the IRA has abandoned criminality, as well as terrorism, and that Sinn Fein is living up to its commitment to democratic means, it has promised a widespread consultation exercise. Before deciding to share power, it wants to find out the opinions of the loyal orders, Protestant church leaders and business interests.

Some will see this as a means of extending the political process, but the law fixing the deadline of November 24 will soon be in place. If the DUP wants to protect its back, before entering a Stormont executive, it will have to begin consulting its electorate – and others – soon after the Assembly reconvenes in September.

All is in the realms of speculation, since the DUP has yet to meet Sinn Fein for face-to-face talks. But the two sides were almost able to reach an agreement in December 2004, through government mediators, before the Northern Bank robbery and the McCartney murder destroyed faith in republican sincerity.

If the forthcoming IMC report shows that the IRA, post-war and post-decommissioning, is progressing towards an exclusively political role, then the scene is set for an interesting Assembly session, starting on May 15. Few believe that DUP-Sinn Fein differences can be settled within six weeks, but if the marching season is relatively uneventful and there is no further evidence of IRA activity, all those who would be eligible for consultation by the DUP will be keyed up for a busy autumn.

On the first of those ‘Ifs’, the 10th IMC report, the leaked details suggest a somewhat mixed bag.