“Don’t be so cynical”

While I have already noted the latest U-turn by the Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, on the off-again/on-again assembly, it’s worth detailing the events, as related by Gerry Moriarty in the Irish Times[subs req]. Over the space of 45 minutes on Thursday he received two phone calls from the NIO, the first telling him there was no assembly business next week, the second telling him there was.. and between those calls there were also two statements by the DUP leader Ian Paisley..From the Irish Times:

The hope is that the report of Independent Monitoring Commission in October will deliver stronger proof that the IRA is eschewing criminality and paramilitarism, and that the following month Dr Paisley will indicate he is prepared to do business with Gerry Adams.

Maybe not specifically by November 24th – the deadline for a deal set by the governments – but at least if there is by then a declaration of intent or an agreement in principle by the DUP to share power with Sinn Féin, then politics could loosen up in the new year. That’s the plan, and it’s not a bad one if everybody plays to the script. But this week there was a real danger of this November 24th project descending into farce. Consider this for example. At 5pm on Thursday I got a phone call from a Northern Ireland Office (NIO) spokesman to say that Mr Hain had decided the Assembly would not sit next week.

I strolled over to City Hall to cover the election of SDLP councillor Pat McCarthy as the new Belfast lord mayor. Mr McCarthy is a former Workers’ Party member who was interned in the 1970s as an alleged Official IRA member, so things do change. In the hall I was chatting to the DUP’s Nigel Dodds who said that his boss Dr Paisley was about to issue a statement threatening to boycott the preparation for government committee if the Assembly did not sit next week.

I returned to the office after the election and lo and behold there were two e-mails from Dr Paisley.

One at 5.16pm warning of the boycott, the other at 5.43pm saying he was now happy he had received a personal assurance from Mr Hain that the Assembly would sit after all. Just then a call came through from another NIO spokesman confirming the Assembly would convene. Some way to run a country, I put it to him.

“Don’t be so cynical,” he said, “this shows that we do listen to politicians.” What he meant, I think, is that Mr Hain listens to Dr Paisley because he’s the politician who will determine whether or not there ever will be a deal. “The important thing is that Ian Paisley is still in the process. He has to make his move, but he needs more time,” said one senior London source.

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  • michael

    how sad it is that everything rests on the whim of one man!

    democracy
    freedom
    ya de ya ya ya …

  • TAFKABO

    how sad it is that everything rests on the whim of one man!

    One man, one vote, what’s the problem?

  • willis

    Everything rests on the whim of one man!!!

    Did the world stop turning?

    Did the Weather improve?

    Get a grip.

  • Crataegus

    TAFKABO

    One man, one vote, what’s the problem?

    The problem is it is not democratic because the structures enable not parity and inclusion but a minority to veto everyone else and block all progress. What we have is a distortion of democracy.

    We have structures where plainly all votes are not equal and others = lesser. It’s an utter disgrace.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Well said that man

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Paisley only has about 1/3 of the vote so minority rule is now how we are going to be governed whilst Hain is around

  • David

    The whole thing has become a joke. It is akin to a market bubble the bigger it grows the worse the fallout when it bursts.
    Peter Hain is a decent Sec of State but he needs to give this generation of politicos the heave ho.

  • Nevin

    In the 2005 Westminster election the DUP received the votes of 21% of the electorate, SF 15% and the UUP and SDLP 11% each.

    Hain appears to be turning on and off Assembly discussion to appease either the DUP or SF who represent 36% of the electorate.

    There also appears to be confusion in the British and Irish political establishments.

    There are those in the Ministries of Sin, which deal with justice issues, who favour a culture of lawfulness as defined in IMC reports, and those in the Ministries of Lust, which deal with foreign affairs, who are convinced they can seduce the loyalist and republican paramilitary godfathers to become democrats.

  • Dave

    “One at 5.16pm warning of the boycott, the other at 5.43pm saying he was now happy he had received a personal assurance from Mr Hain that the Assembly would sit after all. Just then a call came through from another NIO spokesman confirming the Assembly would convene. Some way to run a country, I put it to him.”

    It is good to see that Gerry Moriarty regonises the fact that Northern ireland is a COUNTRY and not a STATELET or the NORTH.

  • Dave

    GRATEAGUS
    “The problem is it is not democratic because the structures enable not parity and inclusion but a minority to veto everyone else and block all progress. What we have is a distortion of democracy.

    We have structures where plainly all votes are not equal and others = lesser. It’s an utter disgrace.”

    You are absolutely correct the idea that a minoratiy should have any say is a demorcracy is absurd. The majority should rule in a democracy, after all democracy is about the will of the people, isn’t it?

  • Crataegus

    Dave & others

    The really sad aspect of this is that back in the 90s when these structures were being dreamed up these problems were all foreseen. To those senior Civil servants then co-ordinating all I can say is it gives me absolutely no pleasure to say told you so. Let me see what was the conversation, what if the DUP become the leading Unionist party, “unlikely”. What if SF overtake SDLP, “the democratic structures and the unfolding of an agreement should strengthen moderate parties.” As we know the process and progress was hijacked by the extremes and the obvious optimism seems laughable now.

    Now we have the main miscreants in pole position. There is an opinion that if they can do a deal all will be OK. I would take a slightly different view an basically it runs like this;
    1 There is an agreement democratically endorsed.
    2 The structures that are meant to ensure inclusion actually give rise to institutionalised sectarianism and allow a minority to veto progress. Plainly they don’t work. We need to revisit this section.
    3 Negotiations should once again be widened out to obtain wider opinion and this time the role of the political parties should be significantly reduced. After all they do potentially have a conflict of interests.
    4 We also need to ensure that there is a potential fall back administration should rigor mortise set in.
    5We need to ensure that there is an effective opposition.
    6 We need to re-examine the role, composition of and appointment or election to the Civic Forum so that it has a clear and effective purpose.
    7 Take a hard look at how we ensure the voting system would ensure representation that is proportional to support across NI. Have a system where if the conservatives or similar small parties get a few percent across NI they actually get someone elected. There was a system at the time proposed by some group on the left which had STV plus topping up based on the first preference votes cast which struck me at the time as being simple and very clever. Have a system where if you get 25 % of the vote you get 25% (or slightly more) of the representation and not 35%. Make everyone’s vote count so that Conservatives etal across NI have some reason to get out and vote.

    Do the dam thing correctly this time, hold an election and to hell with the wishes of the politicians. This is our government not their private fiefdom. They are there to serve us.Hain needs to take control of this and do it properly, no more private deals. No more nonsense.

  • Dave

    The Belfast agreement doesn’t work due to the fact that it is based om lies. The majority of unionists do not give the agreement their backing.

    The British government said there is no plan (B)now they say there is a plan (b).

    All sections of the community should be represented at stormont there is no doubt about that, however in a democracy the majority rule.

    No terrorists in government that is the will of the people (both communities).

    The Belfast agreement is dead, time to bury it.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Dave

    “You are absolutely correct the idea that a minoratiy should have any say is a demorcracy is absurd. The majority should rule in a democracy, after all democracy is about the will of the people, isn’t it?”

    Oh for fuck sake…

    Have you been in a cave for the last thirty – no scratch that – for the last hundred years or what?

  • Dave

    Come on Billy you can do better than that.

    Democracy is about the will of the people and the Belfast agreement is dead, why else would the British government be talking about plan (B)?

    So… lets here your concept of democracy.

    Remember I deal in simplicity, don’t make it too complicated….waiting! this should be interesting.