No question at all..

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.

But according to the RTÉ report, and they have a video report online[RealPlayer video] to prove it, Dermot Ahern is talking, in effect, about joint government decision-making as a Plan B –

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.

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  • English

    The ministers are reiterating what we already know, the deadline will not be changed – how follish would the two governments look if they backed down now?

    I think secretly Hain and Ahern are looking forward to making decisions over the heads of NI politicians. If we are honest, Hain is very good at this already and appears to take great pleasure in it. He is probably fully expecting that no agreement will be reached, and is looking forward to cutting salaries, implementing tax increases and plans for an all-Ireland economy. Perhaps NI will have a trial run at the Euro to test out conversion for Gordon Brown?

  • Pete Baker

    English, you’re missing, or ignoring, several of the implications of what’s been said at that press conference.

  • páid

    enlighten us Pete, for I think english may be on to something.

  • Pete Baker

    It’s all in the original post, pid, if you re-read it.

    There’s the difference in emphasis between the BBC report and the RTÉ report to begin with.

    Then there’s the apparent dissent between the governments about what Plan B actually represents.

    And to top it off we have the, yet to be discussed publicly, insistence on all parties signing up to policing before devolved government occurs.

  • DK

    So, if SF refuse to join policing then there will be no Assembly, so SF can be blamed for crashing the Assembly. Or, if the DUP don’t join they can be accused of letting SF off the policing hook.

    Very clever, except that SF can easily collapse the assembly by an “unauthorised” criminal/terrorist act. The DUP will then walk out and SF can avoid joining up to the policing board – blaming the DUP for being no men.

  • Brian Boru

    I think there is an element of word-games here. They won’t call it “Joint Authority” or “Joint Governance” but I think we will see greatly enhanced powers for the existing All-Ireland bodies and a few more set up too. I would hope to see the North-South Ministerial Council restored and the role formerly occupied by Northern and Southern ministers taken by British and Irish Ministers.

    If we don’t get this or the restoration of devolution then I would favour serious consideration to restoring the old Articles 2 and 3.

  • Mike

    Brian Boru –

    “I think there is an element of word-games here. They won’t call it “Joint Authority” or “Joint Governance” but I think we will see greatly enhanced powers for the existing All-Ireland bodies and a few more set up too. I would hope to see the North-South Ministerial Council restored and the role formerly occupied by Northern and Southern ministers taken by British and Irish Ministers.”

    If this scenario were to happen, and you call it ‘Joint Authority’, then it’s joint authority over the whole island of Ireland, not just Northern Ireland.

  • Brian Boru

    “If this scenario were to happen, and you call it ‘Joint Authority’, then it’s joint authority over the whole island of Ireland, not just Northern Ireland.”

    No it wouldn’t be. Because as before the Dail and the relevant assembly controlling NI (at the moment Westminster rather than the Assembly) would retain their final say’s.

  • middle-class taig

    This is great. SF can now insist on a range of new arrangements on policing and there’ll be time pressure on HMG to achieve it.

    DK, SF aren’t going to have their move on policing depend on anything so whimsical as DUP decision-making. I reckon SF will be endorsing (and “pursuing a policy of intensely critical engagement” on) policing arrangments during the course of this year.

  • Pete Baker

    mct

    The actual devolving of policing matters to an Executive here is dependent, firstly, on an Assembly vote.. which would include the decision-making of the DUP.. whimsical or not.