being straight with the people..

The Irish Times gives valuable column space to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern today[subs again]. While he notes progress made since the statement by the PIRA this time last year the article is as interesting for what he doesn’t say as for what he does. Expect more Processing ahead.Firstly here’s what he does say..

Many people are becoming switched off by what seems to be a never-ending process without any outcome.

But look closely and we can see huge changes are taking place – changes for the better.

The biggest change, of course, is the removal of the threat of violence with the ending of the IRA campaign and the completion of decommissioning.

That has transformed the entire situation and presented an enormous opportunity for the future.

There’s little doubt such an opportunity does exist but the opportunity may not be as open as the Taoiseach appears to believe.

Missing from the article is a specific mention of policing. Here on Slugger there’s been a close eye kept on the various statements and opinions expressed by the interested parties, today Bertie Ahern ducks the opportunity to spell out what the Irish Government expects.

Indeed, rather than mention policing, he uses another phrase that at first glance may seem to cover the same ground

It is therefore the duty of everybody to stand up for peace, democracy, equality and the rule of law.

But, as the Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland has made clear in the Commons, the position of the British Government appears to be that support for “the rule of law” is assumed to be covered by the current Ministerial Pledge of Office – that’s a position that ignores the very important question posed by Denis Bradley

Mr. Hain: I agree absolutely, but the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the pledge of office, which commits all serving members to commit themselves to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means, is effectively a commitment to the rule of law. It was agreed by all the parties and is in the Northern Ireland Act 1998 as a result of the Good Friday agreement. I am at one with him in insisting that all elected politicians, especially Ministers, comply with the rule of law and support the police.

There are some other elements of the Taoiseach’s article that don’t quite sit comfortably with recent events.

We have also made clear that if the deadline is not met, the Assembly will be put in cold storage and we will put in place new British-Irish partnership arrangements to ensure our effective joint stewardship of the Good Friday agreement.

Some people don’t believe the two governments are serious about the deadline. Others may think that the Good Friday agreement can somehow be replaced.

They are wrong on both counts.

We are being straight with the political parties and straight with the people.

Straight on the deadline perhaps, straight on the nature of the joint-stewardship? Perhaps not..

What neither government is being straight with the people on is the issue of paramilitaries and crime. Bertie Ahern does mention that.. almost in passing

There are also increasing signs that people in the loyalist community want to play their part in transforming the position of their community and in ending paramilitarism and criminality from the loyalist side.

His opinion on this would appear to be based on his recent meeting with the leadership of the UDA, although no official recognition of the actual nature of that meeting was forthcoming at the time. And while that meeting took place, the British government was receiving guests at Hillsborough, and refusing to comment on the discussion there as well.

It is of course, in the words of the Secretary of State recently, “a particularly sensitive time.”

Meanwhile, of course, there’s been the recent joining of the fray by the Chair of the PUP, and member of the Policing Board Dawn Purvis, who, as Gonzo noted, pointed the finger at the DUP. But, given her appointment to the Policng Board by Peter Hain and her party’s links to the UVF, and in contrast to the views of others, it’s her views on those paramilitaries which are worth highlighting.

“The [Independent Monitoring Commission] is good at telling us this stuff [the UVF link to violence], the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, we have been hearing this for years.

“Where are the arrests, where are the charges?” she says.

And from the same interview

“People depend on paramilitaries for certain things. They are like social workers, they get their doors knocked day and night about a noisy neighbour, a fight in the street.

And to round things up, today sees the announcement that the social workers in North Belfast are under new management.. Say hello to the new boss?

Update “What new management?” say social workers..

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  • holdyn mcgroyn

    nationalists and republicans campaigned for a new police force and they got one. Republicans seem intent on reserving some sort of right to commit crime if they choose, and nationalists use bodies such as the police ombudsman as a way of perpetually undermining the PSNI by implying a permanent state of corruption/incompetence.

    Furthermore, why, when many of the other key jobs arising from the GFA went to impartial outsiders, did the police ombudsman job go to a nationalist catholic woman? she certainly ticks a lot of politically correct boxes

  • seabhac siulach

    Pete Baker:

    “Straight on the deadline perhaps, straight on the nature of the joint-stewardship? Perhaps not..”

    What is the hang-up about this…the GFA is quite specific in the range of matters that can be dealt with on a cross-border level…that is:

    “The Council is responsible for policy in twelve “Areas for Co-operation”. Six areas are carried out by existing bodies in each jurisdiction but co-ordinated by the Council. These are: agriculture, education, the environment, health, tourism and transport. Tourism, while not within the competence of an ‘implementation body’, is promoted by an agency with responsibility for the whole island of Ireland called Tourism Ireland. Six other areas are the responsibility of executive North-South Implementation Bodies:
    Waterways Ireland,Food Safety Promotion Board, Special European Union Programmes Body, InterTradeIreland, The North/South Language Body
    Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission”

    So it is clear from the above that 12 important areas, dealing with agriculture, education, health, trade, etc. can be dealt ‘in each jurisdiction’ (so no question of joint-‘authority’) but at the same time (and importantly!) will be coordinated by the council…
    It is an upgraded version of this council, coordinating a large range of cross-border initiatives, that will likely take the place of the moribund Stormont executive.

    This version of a plan B should be troubling for Unionists…as it puts the governance of the 6 counties in the hands of a council likely made up of direct rule Brit and Irish ministers.

  • seabhac siulach

    In the last post when I mention council I am of course referring to the North/South Ministerial Council as specified in the GFA….

  • Pete Baker

    seabhac siulach

    I had in mind, in particular, these comments from the Secretary of State, Peter Hain, on May 10th giving evidence to the NI Affairs Committee

    Q23 Lady Hermon: Secretary of State, may I pursue that a little bit, picking up on some of the points you have raised. You will know how angry the UVF were with the joint statement that was issued by the Prime Minister and Taoiseach on 6 April 2006 in Armagh. They particularly took exception to, and I am not a spokesman for the organisation but it is in the public domain, and disliked the term “the joint stewardship of the process”. Do you regret, and is there any regret in Downing Street, that that phrase “the joint stewardship of the process”, was actually used, pushing back and delaying the possibility of loyalist paramilitaries, particularly the UVF, coming in from the cold and beginning the process that they should have done a long time since?

    Mr Hain: I hope my friends and colleagues on the other side of the border will not take offence at this, “but I think there was some unhelpful spin from some elements in Dublin which hyped up the interpretation of “joint stewardship. Joint stewardship of the process” was a very carefully chosen phrase. It did not imply joint authority, as I said earlier, joint governance: it implied joint stewardship of the process of bringing peace, of putting in concrete the peace and seeking restoration of the devolved institutions. That is what it meant, and that is what it will mean, that and nothing else. I do agree that interpretation seems to have been the reason that, in the case of the UVF at least, they would not do anything until after 24 November. I think that is an excuse, frankly, and now that they know that that has been clarified by myself in particular, there is no reason for them to delay at all.

  • seabhac siulach

    Hain said:

    “…it implied joint stewardship of the process of bringing peace, of putting in concrete the peace and seeking restoration of the devolved institutions.”

    Putting ‘in concrete the peace’ is a bizarre phrase but the important part is that they seek ‘the restoration of the devolved insitutions’…this then, of course, implies the North-South ministerial council. I imagine the UVF /UDA(?) will be ‘annoyed’, no matter, when it becomes apparent that this council (seemingly a forgotten part of the GFA) comes back into effect.

    The UDA seemed happy enough after their meeting with Bertie Ahern some weeks back when he explained to them that all plan B meant was the implementation of the GFA…I wonder did he explain about the North-South council? Are the UDA/UVF really happy with the idea of this council?

    If the govts. are serious about implementing the GFA (in the absence of any movement in Stormont) then the cross border strands of it, the North-South Ministerial Council, become very important. It doesn’t matter whether it is called joint-governance or whatever, the fact is that, if we take the two govts. by their word (no doubt mistakenly!) then there will have to be a North-South aspect to any ‘plan B’…as this was an important element of the GFA and one of the things people voted on…

  • Pete Baker

    The UDA’s comments following the meeting with Ahern were themselves followed by Rooker’s comments in the Lords.. the link is in the original post.

    I don’t disgree with you in essence on the North South bodies coming more into play.. but the statements by the British government are dismissive of the idea that it will amount to any kind of joint governance.. and that’s before any changes to the way NI laws are dealt with in parliament.

  • seabhac siulach

    “…but the statements by the British government are dismissive of the idea that it will amount to any kind of joint governance…”

    That is because it is will not be joint governance…a better name might be ‘joint-coordination’…each side governing their own little patch but coordinating on things that can better be done on an all-Ireland basis, transport and inward investment, for example…

    The real question must be why the 26 county govt. insisted on hyping up the idea of ‘joint authority’ when the knew full well that any ‘plan B’ would just follow the outlines of the GFA…(well, apart from a crude attempt to scare DUP voters…)

  • Pete Baker

    “apart from a crude attempt to scare DUP voters…”

    and, additionally, a crude attempt to placate SF voters..?

  • Robert Keogh

    Eamonn O’Malley was on the radio earlier in the week saying that behind the scenes SF and the DUP are talking to each other. Not sure what to make of that and certainly haven’t seen any similar claims bandied about.

    I wouldn’t be surprised especially after the U “we don’t talk to terrorists” K government talked to various republican and loyalist paramilitaries almost continuously during the conflict.

    Then today I saw this op-ed in the BT : One Year Later: IRA Has Gone Away, But Does Paisley Care?. It is tenuous but I have a small hunch that this article could be setting the ground now that the 12th is over (not to mention how peacefully it went off).

    Has anyone else heard any rumours to support or contradict this?

  • Robert Keogh

    The Curious incident of the politicians that didn’t care for architectural heritage.

    Another BT article: Why didn’t either SF or the DUP have anyone available for the UAHS meeting? Were they both on holiday, feeling ill or perhaps busy talking to each other? It could (of course) be merely a coincidence.

  • Pete Baker


    There a quite considerable ball already on the pitch.

  • Robert Keogh


    there are indeed but I think the possibility of SF/DUP talking behind the scenes is the background to the thread you’ve created.

  • Pete Baker

    You might think that, Robert..

    But the background is the same as the foreground – the governments’ attempts to deal with paramilitaries.. and their involvement in crime.

  • ciaran damery

    Let’s call a a spade a spade here, becuase Paisleyites are (and some will for ever be) hopeful that a return to the One Party Stalinist type, “majoritarian” rule in a state created to ensure that there would be an inbuilt sectarian, gerymanered unionist garden of eden where the Brits ould provide the necessary military power and created B-Specials/RIR, SS/RUC (which has recently undergone some superficial cosmetic surgery, including a name change) augmented by British troops when the natives became rebellious. This state which Paisleyites yearn for ain’t never gonna happen, but timber doesn’t have ears and there will never be a power sharing legislature in occupied Ireland cuz Paisleyites represent th vast majority and as we know, Paisley is constitutionally incapable of sharing power with Irish Republicans. Thus plan B will gradually be implemnted over a specified time period commencing on November 24th. This plan was broadly outlined by Brit Viceroy Hain in an interview with BBC world and/or NPR radio yesterday. During th course of th interview Hain said tht the british and irish governments would be “joined at the hip” in their approach to the gvernance of the staelet. He used the anoogy at least twice when pressed on how the problem pertaining to the governance of the zone. There was no mention of the Brits retaining judicial or policing powers, in fact in a lenghty analysis on the thread dealing with the paucity of intellectual thought within unonism, I addressed the issue comprehensively. Finally, policing will ahve to include an All-Ireland ( The primary obstcles concerning CRJ has already been addessed to the satifction of Sinn Fein) dimension to ensure that the people of the occupied zone do not have to bear the brunt of RUC frustration whilstreal change is being implemented, In my opinion Ireland will be reunified within 10 years, by which time Sinn Fein will be the second largest party on the island, unless Paisleyites and Blueshrts merge. Call me an optimist, but I am begining to see the shape of things to come as a result of the visionary approach of the Republican movemen and again I refer those who care to take the time to read my analysis of the shape of things to come on the thread addresing Brian Feenys commentary on the lack of unionist intellectual thoughtand/or debate.

  • T. Ruth

    Northern Ireland post November will be governed in accordance with the expressed wishes of the majority Unionist community.
    Unionists should not be too strongly criticised if they have reservations about admitting Republicans into a power sharing Executive. The Republican mandate may in our special circumstances entitle its representatives to share power and responsibility in the Assembly. Admission to the Executive as of right is a very considerable concession to a minority party from the majority in a democratic system.

    Unionist reluctance to share power with the representatives of those who do not regard the murder of Robert McCartney or Jean McConville as a crime is understandable.

    Sharing power with those who are unapologetic and who show no remorse about their involvement in horrific crimes against humanity, committed as part of a Republican terror campaign for the past forty years, does require serious consideration.
    We are being asked to share Executive responsibility with people committed to the destruction of our relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom. We are asked to contemplate the possible election/selection/appointment as Minister for Justice and Policing of people who may have been closely associated with vicious, terrorists, assassins, bombers,and perhaps those who had foreknowledge if not current information concerning the Northern Bank robbery.A degree of reticence should not be unexpected.

    Mr. Hain’s bully boy tactics and threats set to the Sinatraesque refrain of “I’ll do it my way” merely confirms his political naivete and incompetence. It does not frighten Unionists. If there is to be devolved government it will be in a form and in a time of our choosing or there will be a continuation of direct rule. The majority community is not going away and will act decisively in purely peaceful and democratic ways to assert its human, political and civil rights.Direct rule would not in my view be the best option for Northern Ireland.However a return to an assembly is not inevitable and if it is to happen much more must be done to allay Unionist concerns.Specifically there should/must be an unequivocal declaration from both governments that should we develop a responsibility sharingn Assembly then any party which was found to involved in organised criminality or terrorism should be excluded immediately from membership of the Executive if not the Assembly itself.

    There is no place in a democracy for those who represent terrorist or organised crime -no place for an alternative to the recognised state police service service-no place for those who cannot accept the legitimacy of the state as expressed freely in democratic election after election.