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