The blame game – redux

Usually it’s the various parties who engage in the blame game, or rather the more subtle version – avoiding the blame. Today though, as reported by the Guardian’s political editor Patrick Wintour, the Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland Peter Hain has been pointing the finger.. at the DUP... but is it all it seems?The Secretary of State is quoted in the Guardian report:

“There is an opportunity to make it work, but if the DUP in particular and the parties collectively, are unable to agree to share power again, and to get the assembly up and running as a legislature, then they will have brought the curtain down on devolution.

“It is really a question for the DUP as to whether it wants to be seen as the party that brought devolution down or whether it is going to be the party that makes it work. All the other parties are agreed, subject to final negotiations, that they want devolved government by November 24 at the latest. The DUP has yet to agree with the other four parties so it is the one standing out on its own at the moment.”

It’s worth noting, though, that while he does single out the DUP, the statement has its caveats:

“and the parties collectively”

and the more interesting

“All the other parties are agreed, subject to final negotiations..”

This comes the day after someone [at the NIO? – Ed] leaked part of a document to the BBC with an assessment of the financial cost to the DUP of the assembly being shut down.

The BBC has seen a section of the confidential document which deals with the cost to the DUP of shutting down Stormont.

The BBC’s Mark Devenport, quoted in the report, seems somehwat unimpressed by what Ian Paisley is calling “filthy backmailing tactics” – and it does seem a fairly clumsy attempt to pressurise the party:

Ian Paisley, however, said it was “absolutely laughable”to suggest that his party would allow the loss of office allowances and wages to influence its judgement “on whether Republicans have met the democratic test for government”.

“Even if we were down and out and had no money whatsoever, we would not be selling the country short for the sake of a pound,” he said.

“Peter Hain has demonstrated his filthy backmailing tactics and he will find we will never bow the knee to money and be slaves to the British government.”

And if that’s the NIO’s stick approach with the DUP, there’s a hint of a carrot in the Guardian’s article, although it’s not one that the DUP will be first in the queue to take a bite out of:

He also said that the Treasury comprehensive spending review will look at the possibility of a peace dividend for Northern Ireland if the political parties agree to set up the power-sharing executive nearly 10 years after the Good Friday Agreement. The chancellor, Gordon Brown, was in the province last week.

That’s a very vague hint mind.. and the Chancellor may have something to say about it.

It would, though, mean another U-turn by Peter Hain.. [or just a repackaging? – Ed]

But as I’ve pointed out before, it would conform to the overall pattern of Peter Hain’s apparent approach

One final point on the blame game.. and the Secretary of State’s sudden penchant for finger-pointing, and this ties in with the caveats noted in the Guardian article. Yesterday when Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern and the Secretary of State Peter Hain held their press conference at Stormont RTÉ’s Tommie Gorman asked the one question that the BBC don’t appear to have thought of, although several others clearly have – what about policing? The reply by Peter Hain, as noted in this RTÉ report, is worth thinking about

The Northern Secretary, Peter Hain, has said that he expects to see increasing evidence that Sinn Féin is changing its attitude to policing in Northern Ireland.

There’s an accompanying RTÉ News report[RealPlayer video file] with the quote from Peter Hain, in relation to SF and policing:

“They ought to be co-operating locally anyway.. now.”

And, while Peter Hain, and the RTÉ report, mention the transferring of policing powers to an assembly, it should be remembered that the legislation being talked about is only one step in opening that particular lock