Today saw another meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, and they released a joint comminqué [which I may return to later], but for now the more interesting detail is the emphasis in the reporting. Both the BBC and RTÉ lead with the news that Peter Hain’s not for blinking, although as previously mentioned, there may still be a little lee-way after the deadline, but it’s the follow-up in the reports that worth looking at more closely.According to the BBC report, both the Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland Peter Hain and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said in the press confernece afterwards that devloved government would require all parties signing up to policing –
They also both reiterated that if Northern Ireland is to have devolved government then all parties have to sign up to policing.
That does fit with Peter Hain’s previous answer at Northern Ireland Questions in the Commons on April 26 –
Mr. Hain: On the hon. Gentleman’s point about criminality, it is now clear that the Provisional IRA – and, therefore, its political link, Sinn Fein – is now committed to stamping out criminality and paramilitary activity. The only logical, sustainable long-term position for anyone seeking to perform parliamentary legislative duties or exercise ministerial office is to support the police. We will be working on that and encouraging Sinn Fein to do that.
Mr Ahern said that while both governments were firmly focused on restoring the institutions, if their efforts failed plan B would involve both governments taking decisions over the heads of elected representatives in the North, and that was something no one wanted.
It’s worth noting that the video report frames the decisions as taking place within meetings such as the Intergovernmental Conference.. however, it doesn’t necessarily fit with what Peter Hain has said in the Commons recently –
On the supremacy, as it were, of the United Kingdom Government in the governance of Northern Ireland, I am happy to agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. There is absolutely no question of joint authority or joint governance. There is plenty of scope, however, and the hon. Gentleman implied that he agreed with this, for practical co-operation, as provided for through the architecture of the Good Friday agreement, which was endorsed by the people of Northern Ireland, for cross-border co-operation in a number of areas—for example, on energy, the economy, child offending, and getting rid of unfair mobile phone roaming charges so that there is a single, all-Ireland rate. On those sorts of issues, and on many more, there is tremendous scope for future co-operation, much of which, indeed, is already taking place. But there is no question of joint authority. There is no question of that at all.
No question at all then…
In the meantime here’s what the Joint Comminqué has to say on what happens next –
Political Developments and the Way Ahead
The Conference reviewed political developments in the light of the recent statement made by the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister in Armagh setting out the Governments’ joint strategy for restoration of the devolved institutions in 2006.
The two Governments reiterated that their primary objective is the achievement of a fully functioning Executive and Assembly at the earliest opportunity and not later than the deadline of 24 November 2006. They urged the parties to grasp the opportunities in the coming weeks and months to work together to restore partnership government to Northern Ireland. They underlined their commitment to the Good Friday Agreement, as the indispensable framework for British-Irish relations, and confirmed their intention, in all circumstances, to ensure the Agreement is implemented to the fullest possible extent for the benefit of all communities.