It’s all about policing

While the DUP leader Ian Paisley has reiterated his position on policing as Mick noted here, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has echoed the previous comments by Foreign Affairs Minister, Dermot Ahern, and Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, and called for a “clearer message” from Sinn Féin about policing but not necessarily supporting the police publicly before an executive is formed – in line with Dermot Ahern’s call for “an understanding that there is a move toward full acceptance of policing.”From the Irish Times[subs req]

Bertie Ahern said Sinn Féin need not join the Policing Board or voice support for the PSNI before any new executive is formed. But he said it should make clear its intentions to “play their role” in policing. “I do think that a clear message [ is needed] as we go forward – or maybe I should say, correctly, a clearer message going forward – that they will take and play their role in policing, as they have previously undertaken to do,” he said.

His remarks follow comments in The Irish Times last week by DUP leader the Rev Ian Paisley in which he stated bluntly that no political progress was possible until Sinn Féin backed the PSNI. “The talks have no future until everyone who is going to be in the government of Northern Ireland is a complete and total supporter of the police,” he said.

Speaking in Dublin before Fianna Fáil’s 80th anniversary celebrations, Mr Ahern said: “Ultimately, the position has to be that policing is devolved, and that government plays its role in it. I don’t see the devolvement of policing powers before that. The ‘message’ [ about SF’s future intentions] could well be before that,” he added.

“I don’t think we are going to see the whole policing issue resolved before we see the executive resolved, but Sinn Féin’s attitude to policing will be important.”

It falls short of the requirement Ian Paisley stated in his interview in the Irish Times, but it fits with the pattern from both the Irish and British Governments who seem to be easing back on the pressure on individual parties before the November deadline.

Interestingly, though, the Irish Times also notes Bertie Ahern’s comments on RTÉ

Speaking earlier on RTÉ, the Taoiseach said failure to agree to form an executive by the two governments’ November 24th deadline could mean the opportunity being lost for decades. “If we can’t do it in six months, then we’re unlikely to do it this side of the next 20 years.”

The choice of referring to a 20 years wait would, of course, take us 10 years beyond a certain centenary anniversary.

If we go back to the deadline, and while the public statements today are emphasising the absolute nature of that date, it’s also worth remembering what Secretary of State Peter Hain has said over the past week

“If they go to one minute past midnight in the expectation that we’re going to blink, well we won’t blink first. Now, if they then decide voluntarily to go on the dole, sack their staff, close down their advice centres, and then come back to me after one month, two months, three months, six months, and say, ‘We think we got it wrong, now we’re ready to run it again’, well my door’s always open. But I’m not going to be chasing after them.”