Yawn. And yet another (Groundhog) day dawns…

Peter Hain is looking for a 100% deal from the St Andrews junket summit. This morning he also, slightly misleadingly, characterised the challenge as a two-headed beast: Sinn Fein must accept Policing and Unionists must accept power sharing. There is no doubt that Sinn Fein know what is expected of them. Gerry Adams’ rousing speech last night was the first time the party even sounded like it was even in the zone for a deal, when he said:

Sinn Fein is opposed to criminality of all kinds. Those who profit from crime have to be effectively challenged and put out of business. So too must those who target the elderly and vulnerable. Rapists and racists can have no refuge and our communities should not have to put up with the scourge of death drivers, or intimidation and lawlessness by criminal groups.

It is as close as Adams has managed to get to having a Clause Four moment. But read the detail, and it remains strictly aspirational. There is no question of him facing down his movement over policing and criminal justice, not yet at least.

Adams leads a movement, a significant part of which only last year offered the family of Robert McCartney to shoot the people it held responsible their brother’s killing. The family is still waiting for the help and support Adams himself promised he would give.

It was this that finally ripped to shreds whatever was left of the once mighty pan nationalist front, that reputedly stretched from the Clinton White House, through Dublin to the moderate SDLP and even the IRA itself. More than the DUP is uneasy about the possiblity of an easy deal emerging from St Andrews. The SDLP fought tooth and nail to stop legislation from going through Westminster last November, that would have allowed ‘on the run’ (OTRs) what amounts to an amnesty. This is likely to be one of the side issues most fought over.

Community Restorative Justice schemes, once touted by a prominent Sinn Fein MLA “as a viable alternative to the PSNI”, have been powerless to end a six month feud (involving over 600 attacks on a range of properties) against a single family in Adams’ own backyard in Ballymurphy.

Some commentators have argued that Paisley’s meeting with Sean Brady, the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh was a cheap PR trick to debunk the idea that his party did not (in that time honoured phrase) want a Catholic about the place. Considering the timing, it is a charge that’s hard to refute. But the principle of power sharing with nationalists has long since been accepted (albeit in the theory of their position papers) by the DUP. But sharing power with Sinn Fein remains the acid test.

The events of the last two years have only served to strengthen the DUP’s hand. A so-called heads of agreement document is what most pundits are backing as an outcome to St Andrews. One that would require consultation at least, and possibly a referendum or, more likely, fresh elections. We will be better able to judge on Friday to what extent a viable roadmap emerges.

Neither of these parties has a reputation for closing a deal. Indeed some worry that Sinn Fein would prefer to keep things open as long as possible. It is a party above all others that thinks and visions itself in the long rather than the short term. Its leaders are long accustomed to riding out the risks of political isolation.

On the today programme earlier this year, prominent Sinn Fein represntative Mitchel McLaughlin, let slip in an early morning interview on the Today programme that his party’s greatest achievement was the undermining of the confidence of the Unionist community.

This time, his party may just decide to gamble its considerable political fortune by finally closing a deal its opponents can actually live with.

  • kensei

    To be honest Mick, that’s a bloody appalling post.

    Policing isn’t a Clause 4 moment any more than any number of issues the SF leadership has delat with over the years. They are not likely to run hugely far ahead of their movement and “face down” anyway without a payoff. Who exactly, takes risks without reward?

    “Pan Nationalist Front”. For the love of god, get a grip. It’s not like it ever existed in the first place.

    The PSNI has spectacularly failed to end any loyalist feuding or much else. CRJ is on a par with local policing, then.

    The DUP’s hand strengthened in the past 2 years? They have the most to lose if they fail to conclude a deal. There will be political consequences to failing to conclude a deal and SF gives a timetable for policing.

    McLaughlin’s statement has been went over a million times and again you stick way too much mephasis on it.

    “Closing a deal his opponents can actually live with”? The responsibility for that failure hardy resides with SF.

  • Brenda

    appalling? That is the most sensible and informative post I have seen on slugger (or anywhere else in a long time.
    ‘closing a deal their opponents can actually live with’ The responsibility for that failure hardly resides with SF.

    Then who else does it reside with? They know what the DUP want- SF to sign up to policing, support for the police- end to criminality….and on and on. If they cannot deliver on the issues the DUP have already laid out then why go to Scotland? At some stage the face down has to come. SF will have to put policing before their party for a yes or no. Until they do that its stalemate. The reality is, if the base of the republican movement say yes to policing the rewards are SF in power, if the base doesn’t endorse policing, then its game over. Therein lies the responsibility, and the responsibility to deliver republicans to support policing is Sinn Feins’ No one elses.

  • kensei

    “Then who else does it reside with?”

    The failure of the GFA to satisfy Unionism is not SF’s fault. That failure lies with those on the Unionist side that negotiated the deal. SF has no responsibility to the other side; just to get the best deal it can for those it represents.

    On policing, SF’s position is known. The quid pro quo on Repubican support is local accountability. Where is the political advantage in “facing down” the movement with nothing to show? They ahve been positioning for a potential move for months, anyway.

  • kensei

    “Therein lies the responsibility, and the responsibility to deliver republicans to support policing is Sinn Feins’ No one elses.”

    SF has no responsibility to deliver anything to anyone, except it’s electorate. A lot of its electorate is suspicious and hostile to policing. Its responsibility to is voice those concerns and to negotiate a police service it’s electorate and Ard Dheis can support.

    It has no responsibility to anyone else.

  • Brenda

    LOL SF’s responsibility to its electorate. Since when did that become important to the leadership in SF? Their electorate was opposed to decommissioning – not a bullet not an ounce but the leadership had a responsibility to deliver because of what they had agreed in the GFA. Now they have to deliver the rest….ie policing. Yes the electorate may be opposed to policing, but as a party SF must deliver the goods-what they agreed or no power . They are going to have to go the whole way on this because they are not dealing now with the people who agreed and worked with them on the GFA, these are a whole different bunch . These guys weren’t even involved in negotating the GFA.

    They are caught by the goolies on this one, and as was said in the movie all the presidents men,in a picture on the wall in the watergate building ‘when you have them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow’.

  • lib2016

    Would have thought that the most interesting phrase was when Gerry said that if unionism wasn’t up for a deal then ‘the process would continue without them’.

    Unionism has managed to weaken it’s own position in Ireland and at Westminster to such an extent that their compliance in building the future is no longer required. Though an inclusive democracy would be preferable one with a mandate of 50%+1 will do.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken,

    “It has no responsibility to anyone else”.

    (Within certain limits) I agree. It is Sinn Fein’s call. If they are not happy, they should not deal.

    As for the gamble’s payoff, the gains are for the party to calculate for itself. As smcgiff has said on Pete’s thread, that is the subject of closed negotiation.

    But the cost of not doing a deal, surely, is further drift?

  • Brenda

    On the other hand as mick has pointed out unionists must accept power sharing

  • Mick Fealty

    With respect lib, I’ve been blogging that phrase repeatedly from November 2002 from Gerry and from Ian/Peter. Now if it ever materialises in fact, that would be worth blogging!

  • pith

    Yawn it certainly is although the side show of spotting the differences develop within the DUP could turn out to be the main attraction. Yep, it’s that dull.

  • kensei

    “But the cost of not doing a deal, surely, is further drift?”

    Previously, Unionism could be assured by not doing a deal that Direct Rule would continue pretty much as is. That is no longer the case – North-Southery and all other kinds of nasty decisions taken on our behalf now add consequence to that action. For all the talk of stubbornness, the British Government has the tools to break it if it so wishes.

    Moreover, I fancy that at least some of the DUP’s vote come from people who want a tough negotiator but nonetheless, a deal. Constantly saying no will not work forever. It hasn’t in the past, and the DUP have went through periods in the losing votes by saying no. I think that with a credible deal on the table, saying No damages the DUP.

    So, it comes down to The Blame Game. If SF gets blamed, some of the effects above will be mitigated on the DUP. SF will deal on policing to avoid taking the rap, but there’ll have to be some bottom line met, like devolution.

    Course, there is always the possibility that SF deal and the Ard Dheis rejects it. That would be an intersting scenario.

  • lib2016

    Mick,

    with the British and the Northern republicans agreeing that the process will go forward with or without the unionists you feel that the unionist position is strengthening?

    (Incidentally I’ve been disappointed in the British refusal to point out publically to unionists the consequences of constant refusal to move forward, but I’ll take your word for it.)

    The significance of Paisley and other leaders of the DUP gang meeting with Brady are whether that visit marks an attempt to lead their followers towards towards normal politics. Sinn Fein as a political party much less tainted by clericalism than the DUP will not be affected by such a visit.

  • Brenda

    Couldn’t the meeting between brady and paisley be refered to in ecumenical terms rather than political. Much like muslim leaders meeting christian leaders on the basis of promoting relations between the two sides, rather than looked at in terms of politics only. Isn’t it a misapprehension to refer to it only in political terms?

    Brady after all is not a political representative, and it then renders libs point null and void if SF or nationalism in general need the help of theocrats like brady to push their agenda.
    Of course one could argue that they (SF/nationalism) did not ask brady to negotatiate with paisley, but they are hoping to reap the benefits of any reward the meeting would throw up.
    Is it only me, or do any others see this as a backward step, that the link between church and state is still strong in NI, and that our future first minister will be over 80 and an old theocrat? It says alot about society here.

    The british and northern republicans cannot agree to move forward without the DUP-since there is inclusivity engraned in the GFA, and it wouldn’t work. It would be undemocratic and unrepresentative, and nothing more than we had pre 69 except the shoe would be on the other foot.

    as mick has said unionist must accept power sharing and sf must accept the police. without that deal there is no deal.

  • Henry94

    Brenda

    Their electorate was opposed to decommissioning

    That is nonsense. Guess who speaks for the Sinn Fein electorate?

    As for the thread I think it completely misreads the situation. The questions are not about SF but about the DUP. Is there a deal they can live with without a split?

  • Brenda

    You know what henry you are right. I was talking about republicans being opposed to decommissioning, but I keep forgetting SF is a NATIONALIST party, why did I refer to them in terms of a republican constituency?

    I’m still catching up! How things have changed.

  • lib2016

    Brenda,

    Nonsense – unionist agreement is only required for a power sharing Executive. If unionists don’t want powersharing then the Agreement must proceed. A majority of the electorate supported powersharing and the Agreement in the referendum and a way must be found to implement their decision whatever the decision by the DUP.

    It was Unionists, with the support of the British Government who failed to implement an acceptable form of democracy pre-1969 just as it is the unionists with the support of the British Government who are failing to introduce powersharing now.

    The British Government cannot and will not be seen to fail again. That is the significance of the American guarantee, which will be implemented by the next Democratic administration whatever about the Bushies.

    Furthermore the Irish Government may be more circumspect about it’s operations but it can exert enormous pressure at Brussels should Britain continue to refuse to operate the Agreement.

  • Henry94

    Brenda

    why did I refer to them in terms of a republican constituency?

    There’s nothing to stop anyone running on a dissident ticket. Then we’d see who speaks for whom

  • Bushmills

    Iris govet exert “enormous pressure” from Brussels. Please, Lib you are going to have to do better than that!

    Whinge all you like about how evil the Unionists are and attempt to paint a doomsday for Unionists if they don’t jump into bed with Gerry at the earliest possible juncture, but don’t try to palm it of as serious analysis. Frankly it’s Provette wishful thinking.

    The elephant in the living room is policing. Every other party bar one is signed up on the issue, the pressure will therefore be upon that party to sign up QED the pressure is on Sinn Fein. Unionism is not blocking power-sharing, Sinn Fein is through their refusal to support the rule of law and thos who have to implement that law in the PSNI.

  • Mick Fealty

    Henry,

    That’s certainly the way it is being sold. And it’s true up to a point. Certainly there would be a leadership cost to the DUP for refusing to do a deal just for the sake of the refusal.

    But, at the heel of the hunt, who is being asked to ante up here? DUP or Sinn Fein? If it is the former, what precisely is it being asked to do?

    If a solid deal of the kind that’s being talked up by Hain is actually forthcoming, the DUP will have little choice but to strike deal or at the very least lose important forward momentum.

    But if it only gives unto yet another dark alleyway, few will blame them for walking away from another planned political mugging.

  • Brenda

    Henry that is a whole other thread.

  • Brenda

    lib with out the power sharing executive what is left? cross border bodies?

    ‘the british gov cannot be seen to fail again’

    It won’t be seen as the british governments failure, it will be seen as a failure on the part of the elected representatives here who are not mature enough even for face to face talks let alone power sharing.
    No one would blame the brit government for saying put up or shut up.

  • Henry94

    Mick

    What the DUP are being asked to do is operate the Agreement negotiated by David Trimble in their absence. That, more than anything to do with Sinn Fein, is what they are afraid of.

    They risk a split not if they refuse to do a deal but if they agree. They will automatically create a space on the right because there is a unionist constituency opposed to power-sharing at any price.

    They have a dreadful political hand going into the talks but they picked the cards themselves.

  • lib2016

    Not just this in this speech but the very public statements by republicans especially Kelly that they are moving towards the creation of acceptable policing emphasise that this is not a problem. It is in the process of being sorted, may in fact have already been sorted.

    As I’ve posted earlier in this thread the important point is that at last the process will go ahead with or without the unionists.

    Bushmills – it isn’t ‘the earliest possible juncture’ but the last chance for the unionists and even for the Brits.

    For the last thirty years Britain has claimed that it’s role here is as peacemaker. The upcoming revelations about collusion will put pay to any claims of British neutrality in a religious war. One thing even the Paisleyites know is the religious composition of Europe. You think Martin Ingram and the like attacked and murdered Catholics with impunity? Watch this space, friend.

    As for America – big Irish-American bloc in the Democrats and an even bigger Catholic one extending right across both parties.

  • Mick Fealty

    Henry,

    That is, if you’ll forgive me, suitably vague.

  • Briso

    Mick wrote:
    It is as close as Adams has managed to get to having a Clause Four moment. But read the detail, and it remains strictly aspirational. There is no question of him facing down his movement over policing and criminal justice, not yet at least.

    Really Mick? And how do you know? Might as well pack up now then so.

  • Brenda

    lib what do you mean by acceptable policing?

    A fair and accountable force? If so the changes made to policing equal a fair and accountable force. great strides have been made.

    Or acceptable to republicans who still find a british police force unacceptable.

    Can a british police force EVER be acceptable to republicans? On the other hand a fair and accountable force can be acceptable to nationalists. And as I said before SF are a nationalist party-thus they will back policing IMO.

    I fail to see how power sharing can go ahead without those with whom you are meant to share power?

  • Mick Fealty

    Niall Stanage yesterday who also thinks the pressure is on the DUP:

    “Sinn Féin’s position on policing is also flawed and its leader’s room for manoeuvre limited. Adams’s old hints that pushing him too far could result in the IRA’s return to war lost credibility years ago. However visceral their feelings about the issue, it is not tenable for republicans to argue that they can join the government of the state they once fought to destroy, but that backing its police would involve an unacceptable breach of their principles”.

  • baldrick45

    I heard that the DUPs are now concerned that provisions to ensure Ministers abide by the the collective will of the Executive (No more Marty McG – 11 plus moments) could now be abused by allowing SF to force any Executive vote they wanted to be held on a cross community basis where weight of No’s would let them (or either of the largest parties – it cuts both ways) kill any decision by automatic failure of the cross community criteria.

    If the parties are already busy thinking up ways of screwing over the opposition when in Government then I’d see any deal lasting about as long as George W in an Al-Qaeda training camp.

    Guess we get the politicians we deserve but f*cked if I can recall ever being that bad!

  • Brenda

    Indeed baldrick getting the deal is one thing, but how long would it last? However,it would be nice to see a bigger and better brawl in the hall!

    We’re missing all the drama.

  • lib2016

    Brenda,

    What on earth has the nationality of the police force got to do with anything? If one accepts the GFA then the North, including the police, is British until and unless the electorate decides otherwise.

    Powersharing has been introduced because unionists have not been able to deliver acceptable democracy on their own. If they don’t want to play their part in powersharing then British nominees must take the place of unionist representatives, or whatever other other formula can be devised. Republicans cannot be denied their share of power forever or we would indeed be in a pre-1969 situation.

  • Brenda

    The nationality of the police has got every thing to do with it. For republicans (not of the SF kind).
    Powersharing has been introduced because unionists have not been able to deliver acceptable democracy on their own. LOL. That is nonsense. Read over that sentence again lib. NO one could deliver democracy on their own by its very nature.
    British nominees must take the place of unionists? Are you kidding me? Over ride the unionist electorate and substitute card board cut out brit representatives in place of those they democratically elected? LOL
    republicans cannot be denied their share of power for ever. so power sharing at any price? I say we put tape over the mouths of the brit representatives to make them more acceptable to the electorate.

    LOL your post cheered me up.

  • BogExile

    ‘Republicans cannot be denied their share of power forever.’

    Yes you can and you should and you probably will if you refuse to accept that in the western liberal tradition the possession of power is only legitimised by the acceptance that with this comes responsibility. The primary responsibility of an executive is to ensure that its jurisdiction and citizens are policed. The jurisdiction and the police are British – tough luck boys – you signed up to the GFA which enshrines it.

    If Shinners want the benefits of power they must (and of course they will) embrace policing providing this outweighs the tactical political advantage of refusing to engage with the PSNI. This advantage is set to become less and less as the republican communities come to terms with the fact they have lost even the dubious advantage of men with power tools for community control.

    If they are serious about power, they’ll suck their lemons and say a grudging’yes’ to the PSNI. The DUP would then have to submit to power sharing as the last skeleton walked from the Republican closet. Simple. Deal with it.

  • Briso

    Baldrick:
    –I heard that the DUPs are now concerned that
    –provisions to ensure Ministers abide by the
    –the collective will of the Executive (No more
    –Marty McG – 11 plus moments) could now be
    –abused by allowing SF to force any Executive
    –vote they wanted to be held on a cross
    –community basis where weight of No’s would let
    –them (or either of the largest parties – it
    –cuts both ways) kill any decision by automatic
    –failure of the cross community criteria.

    If they get rid of this idea they’ll have killed the only decent thing about the power sharing executive. It will be doomed and deservedly so. I hope Durkan has the balls to fight this but I’m not holding my breath.

  • kensei

    “But, at the heel of the hunt, who is being asked to ante up here? DUP or Sinn Fein? If it is the former, what precisely is it being asked to do?”

    Is this really anything new since the 2004 deal? SF were ready to do the policing dance then involving devolution of powers.

    I assume you meant pressure on SF, Mick:
    ““Sinn Féin’s position on policing is also flawed and its leader’s room for manoeuvre limited. Adams’s old hints that pushing him too far could result in the IRA’s return to war lost credibility years ago. However visceral their feelings about the issue, it is not tenable for republicans to argue that they can join the government of the state they once fought to destroy, but that backing its police would involve an unacceptable breach of their principles”.”

    Flawed? Where is the flaw in not supporting a policing service with dubious history until it is properly, locally accountable? Personally, I think SF would love to back the police to help in the Southern elections and probably put pressure them to tackle loyalism.

    While the PIRA returning to war may have “lost credibility”, the threat of dissidents has most certainly not, and if anything intensified in recent months. We are in a dangerous phase, and one of SF’s prime motivations has clearly been to prevent splits in the movement.

    As for “unacceptable breach of principles”, the principle is proper accountablity. The Assembly has it, the justice system, as yet, doesn’t.

    I don’t wknow where all this is coming from. SF’s position on policing has been clear for months, if not years. Adam’s speech is just th elatest in a succession of speeches and quotes from SF.

  • Brenda

    Bog on the other hand as mick has said unionists MUST accept power sharing. There is as mick has said a repsonsibility on SF to deliver a deal that their opponents can live with, but once that is done, once they have sucked their lemons then it is time for the DUP to suck their lemons also, and sit down and do a deal of power sharing for all the people of NI. With power for unionists also comes responsibility and not engage in what baldrick has outlined-how to get one over on your opponent before you even get in there.

  • George

    What the DUP does or says doesn’t matter in the real world. They have no power and are like an itch that can be ignored or scratched.

    Policing is all that matters here to both governments so Sinn Fein will sign up to it (and throw in a ringing endorsement of an Garda while you’re at it).

    Otherwise, there will be a big stick to hit them with at the next Dail election and everyone after it. The way to a possible united Ireland is crystal clear boys and girls (read the Agreement on consent that the people of this island agreed to) and it doesn’t involve being vague on policing in the interim.

    As for the Executive, nobody really cares in Britain or south of the border.

    All the British want is to cut costs and the moaning while all the Irish government want is a stable economic and social environment and if that can be achieved without an Executive, no problem.

    The majority of businesses in Northern Ireland say it isn’t affecting them having no devolution so as long as this stays the same, the only people losing out on the Executive are the parties themselves.

    So SF, sign up to policing before next May, get your eight Dail seats and take it from there.

    DUP, keep protecting the Union if that’s what rocks your boat.

    In the meantime, the other 60 odd million of us living on these islands will get on with our lives.

  • lib2016

    Brenda,

    Unionists are guaranteed their positions in a powersharing executive. It is their own decision not to enter such an executive.

    They cannot continue to exclude Irish nationalists from all acess to power in their own country. Powersharing is a compromise, not an excuse for a unionist veto.

    That compromise is needed because historically unionists did not, possibly could not, involve the nationalist community in the government of NI. As long ago as the early 1960’s McAteer and the Nationalist Party agreed to become the ‘Loyal Opposition’ with the promise that they would be rewarded with acess to power at committee level. That promise was not delivered on with the results we all know about.

  • Mick Fealty

    Just eight George? Are you taking money on that?

  • Henry94

    Mick

    With talk of dark alleyways and political muggings I thought vague was in vogue.

  • BogExile

    ‘They cannot continue to exclude Irish nationalists from all acess to power in their own country.’

    Wrong again. Republicans exclude themselves by being morally and intellectually unable to accommodate the concept of the rule of law beyond the casual dispensation of SF authorised ‘street justice.’

    If militant republicanism finally slaughters this sacred cow they would leave rejectionist unionists without anything to hide behind – the deal would be made. Checkmate. Not the endgame they were looking for but we all know that deal means making a deal with ‘usuns.’ This is diplomacy for slow learners 🙂

  • Ballymac

    I had to say I thought Reg Empey’s piece in today’s News Letter was a bit cheeky, accussing the DUP of preparing for a sell-out, bla,bla,bla bearing in mind that at a recent meeting in Albertbridge Orange Hall, Peter Robinson asked those present if they would go into government with Sinn Fein tomorrow to put up their hands, none other than Michael Copeland, Reg’s fellow MLA in East Belfast fired his hand into the air!

    This is the same Michael Copeland who is now on the UUP negotiating team!! Some negotiator he’ll be!

  • darth rumsfeld

    “Though an inclusive democracy would be preferable one with a mandate of 50%+1 will do.”

    Great to see lib2016 outing himself as a supporter of Stormont there.

    Libbie, haven’t you noticed yet- Unionists have always had 50% and then lots more – and will continue to do so?

    and you will be making a serious misjudgment if you think that the process is going anywhere without Unionists-the Shinners have had all the goodies to date, theres’ nothing left for them but a big slice of humble pie

  • Brenda

    Lib the only way the process moves forward is thru inclusivity. Otherwise its stalemate. If they decide not to enter the power sharing arrangement that is their democratic right. Once again I am saying to you, you cannot have power sharing without those with whom you are elected to share power with. You cannot substitute the other side with someone else, and as to your remark ‘They cannot continue to exclude irish nationalists from power in their own country’, I have this to say.
    1) It’s their country too.
    2) I am glad you used the term ‘nationalist’ rather than republican to describe SF.

  • kensei

    “and you will be making a serious misjudgment if you think that the process is going anywhere without Unionists-the Shinners have had all the goodies to date, theres’ nothing left for them but a big slice of humble pie”

    Tell me darth. Suppose no deal, the British Government increases North South bodies all over the place and gives the Irish government a bigger role, even if it remains a consultative one. Super councils around the border do everything in their power to weaken it, and direct rules ministers make life more painful and expensive for everyone.

    What, exactly, are you going to do about it?

  • lib2016

    ‘Unionists have always had 50% and then lots more’

    Not in recent elections, friend. They might, probably would get it in a referendum while thetwo parts of the are still so far apart but they don’t get it elections anymore.

    Nationalists are used to humble pie – if a return to Stormont means accepting Paisley as First Minister then that will be accepted, along with whatever other sacrifices are necessary. If unionists had cared enough about winning to compromise they could have had it all. Republicans care enough to accept whatever deal is required.

  • George

    Mick,
    SF aren’t going anywhere south of the border until they sign up to the rule of law and whether they like it or not, that includes the PSNI at this stage.

    It also includes not getting your pictures taken with Garda killers, who rob banks with Limerick criminals.

    Sometimes I think SF really don’t get the southern psyche when it comes to “subversives”.

    The populace can take them demanding a bit of tweaking on policing but the principle of signing up and acceptance of policing has to be clear.

    Dail election next May is probably too soon for SF to fully reap the benefits of completely coming in from the cold but there is a sea change happening in Irish politics at the moment with everything to play for in the coming decade or so.

    If they want to be a real player, now is the time to make the move. Anyway, they have come this far, there is nowhere else to go.

    I don’t see SF sweeping the boards here and 8 seats is all they need to maintain a sense of momentum as long as McDonald gets in in Dublin Central.

    After that, it’s focus on being an opposition party and try break that 10% ceiling that most people down here think they have.

    Either that or become acceptable enough as a coalition partner, which will only happen if they accept policing and be as ruthlessly loyal to Dail Eireann, the Irish Army etc. as Dev was when he took the plunge all those decades ago.

  • Brenda

    North south bodies are toothless entities. They are a joke, they have achieved nothing to date AFAIK. You can put them all around the place if you like, question is who will pay for them. Up until now its the british who have been doing most of the paying, so the electorate not just here but in britain may have something to say about that. Especially if it takes money away from essential services. to date a dead stormont has cost millions, money that could have went to essential services.
    Who is to say that direct rule will be more expensive? Perhaps they will bring in the rates, but IMO stormont or no, revenue will have to be found, and water rates are a foregone conclusion. jWhy the rates issue is troubling SF whose main supporters are in working class areas and this levy will hit malone road and its environs harder than any one else is anybodys guess. but thats another issue.

    without the unionists, more direct rule. water rates will come even if stormont does ordoes not. as will some form of rates increase. that arguememt by SF can you afford it, doesn’t add up. We can afford direct rule very much easier than an expensive stormont-considering their wages and expenses and more besides.

    Life will not be more painful or expensive, but we will have lost the opportunity to govern ourselves like scotland and wales. but then lib for republicans that isn’t really what they want is it.

    Sf need this more than anybody else they invested too much in it for it to sink in the water. They’ll do policing and anything else required of them-they’re power hungry.

  • Brenda

    sorry that should say ken not lib.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    kensei: “Suppose no deal, the British Government increases North South bodies all over the place and gives the Irish government a bigger role, even if it remains a consultative one. Super councils around the border do everything in their power to weaken it, and direct rules ministers make life more painful and expensive for everyone. ”

    The North South bodies are limited to common-sense matters — infrastructure, police-cooperation, etc. All good and necessary if the border is to be weakened, but not inherently weakening to the border. The “super-councils,” regardless of how super they are (or aren’t) are not going to have their own foreign policies, regardless of some folks fever dreams.

    As for the home rule ministers, perhaps a splinter in the ass is what it will take to get folks to quit fence-sitting.

  • Brenda

    DC that is surprising. I didn’t know they dealt with policing, I thought they were about trade mostly. and the other stuff you mentioned. But of course it would make sense of the garda exchange, when gardai came north, however, it didn’t amount to much.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Brenda: ” that is surprising. I didn’t know they dealt with policing, I thought they were about trade mostly. and the other stuff you mentioned. But of course it would make sense of the garda exchange, when gardai came north, however, it didn’t amount to much. ”

    I am working from memory — there was a whole “to-do” about North-Southery, with the UUP est. a “North-South Watch.” One of the items referenced were plans for cooperation. Given the common border, the issue of smuggling (an inevitability, regardless of recent political difficulties, given the differing tax structures), and other common issues, such cooperation makes sense.

    Of course, common issues and common sense seem to be endangered species…

  • kensei

    “The North South bodies are limited to common-sense matters—infrastructure, police-cooperation, etc. All good and necessary if the border is to be weakened, but not inherently weakening to the border.”

    Sure. But all those little things begin to add up, a little mission creep here and there, and the border becomes weaker. Co-operation looks a little more like integration. And if it’s working for x and y, then surely it’ll work for z?

    And to me, it’ll be the practical common sense things that convinCe people of a UI.

    “The “super-councils,” regardless of how super they are (or aren’t) are not going to have their own foreign policies, regardless of some folks fever dreams.”

    No, but they can do a lot in terms of making the border invisible, with regardless to health services, police services, education services, symbols and the like. Again – it’ll be the little practical things that will make the difference, and a slow weakening.

    “As for the home rule ministers, perhaps a splinter in the ass is what it will take to get folks to quit fence-sitting. ”

    Hey, they stopped fence sitting and came down on the side of pissing people here off ages ago.

  • POL

    Wasn`t too long ago that the dupers were screaming that they wouldn`t sit on the policing board with the shinners.Why the road to damascus conversion.Could it be that the dupers believe that policing can be a preserved unionist structure and that they can stymie change more effectively with the shinners on board.Hence you signed up to it so it couldn`t be that bad, so no change needed.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    kensei: “No, but they can do a lot in terms of making the border invisible, with regardless to health services, police services, education services, symbols and the like. Again – it’ll be the little practical things that will make the difference, and a slow weakening. ”

    That’s just it — they can’t. Integration of the health services won’t work, even if its a good idea — too many sacred cows. Police? Let’s see if cooperation floats first. Education — not likely — given all the pissing and moaning over Catholic and State / Protestant schools, throwing in Southern schools is not going to fly. As for symbols — you really are an optimist, aren’t you?

    The super-councils will find themselves ham-strung, making anything beyond cooperation a pipe-dream. Money and bureaucracy will be the fence that hems them in and keeps them on the reservation, so to speak. They are not going to be or even become self-regulating fiefdoms with their own foreign policies.

  • barnshee

    “No, but they can do a lot in terms of making the border invisible, with regardless to health services, police services, education services, symbols and the like. Again – it’ll be the little practical things that will make the difference, and a slow weakening”

    Here we have yet again displayed the total lack of reality.

    Protestants are wholly opposed to a UI –ambulances to and from Letterkenny won`t alter that.

    The ROI and its citizens are regarded as apologists for murder gangs (at best) and direct participants in murder campaigns at the other extreme.
    No right thinking protestant will associate voluntarily with such people

  • kensei

    “That’s just it—they can’t. Integration of the health services won’t work, even if its a good idea—too many sacred cows. Police? Let’s see if cooperation floats first. Education—not likely—given all the pissing and moaning over Catholic and State / Protestant schools, throwing in Southern schools is not going to fly.”

    It’ll be a slow process. At the start, integration will be limited to sectors like energy or tourism with minimal political spark. But who is going oppose that a sick person near the border goes to the closest hospital to get treatment. Opposition to that is madness. Or school kids near the border can go to the closest school, rather than the closest on their side? Little things like that will happen before any major integration and while the border exists there will always be some separation, it’s unavoidable.

    Nationalist super councils will push for moves like these, and the border will weaken. It’s inevitable.

    “As for symbols—you really are an optimist, aren’t you?”

    You think an SF run Super Council is going to have the Union Jack all year round? You think they’d knock back a Connolly memorial a la Belfast City Council?

    “The super-councils will find themselves ham-strung, making anything beyond cooperation a pipe-dream. Money and bureaucracy will be the fence that hems them in and keeps them on the reservation, so to speak. They are not going to be or even become self-regulating fiefdoms with their own foreign policies. ”

    You mentioned foreign policy, not me.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Indeed some worry that Sinn Fein would prefer to keep things open as long as possible.

    Really Mick? Most commentators are openly speculating that the DUP are the ones playing for time, as they themselves have been quick to pour scorn on any prospect of a deal next month.

    You have cited a comment by Mitchel McLaughlin as part justification for this assertion, and then close with a remark that Sinn Fein may now sign up to a deal its opponents can live with.

    Of course it’s your prerogative to use such quotes to back up an assertion, but you fail to adopt a similar approach to the comments of DUP leaders.

    In this regard, Paisley’s 12th July speech was nothing if not clear on where the DUP stand on power-sharing and a deal.

    Furthermore, accepting power-sharing with catholics in a position paper is nice; but the reality at local government level is a much more credible barometer of where the DUP are at the moment.

    The Brady meeting aside, (and a notable feature of that welcome development was how long it took the DUP to arrange a time for the meeting in Paisley’s busy schedule…)Paisley and the DUP have yet to take any steps to publicly prepare their grassroots for the compromise which will see Paisley/ Robinson sharing the OFM/DFM office with Martin McGuinness.

    The final comment, that Sinn Fein may sign up to a deal their opponents can live with, is particularly perplexing. Is it not the job of political leaders to negotiate such a deal on behalf of their own community? Is the ‘living with it’ not the responsibility of a community and its political leaders- as opposed to their opponents?

    Unionist concerns/ sensitivities are obviously important; but the problem of too many commentators is that they regard these as somehow superior to those of nationalists.

    The beauty of the scenario opening in front of us at present is that unionism will have no bogeyman to threaten the process with once Paisley and the DUP cross the Rubicon.

    It is that realisation within political unionism that has meant we are more likely to crawl than gallop to a deal in the time ahead.

  • “The ROI and its citizens are regarded as apologists for murder gangs (at best) and direct participants in murder campaigns at the other extreme.
    No right thinking protestant will associate voluntarily with such people
    Posted by barnshee on Oct 11, 2006 @ 04:44 PM”

    That means 186,000 (according to the 2002 CSO census) are wrong thinking Protestants in your eyes ?

    JESUS WEPT!

  • GrassyNoel

    ‘JESUS WEPT!’

    Yeah but they’re tears of laughter.

    At such a mind-numbingly stupid ‘Prods good, Taigs evil murdering bastards’ mentality as so eloquently displayed above.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    kensei: “It’ll be a slow process. At the start, integration will be limited to sectors like energy or tourism with minimal political spark. But who is going oppose that a sick person near the border goes to the closest hospital to get treatment. Opposition to that is madness. Or school kids near the border can go to the closest school, rather than the closest on their side? Little things like that will happen before any major integration and while the border exists there will always be some separation, it’s unavoidable. ”

    You figure wrongly, kensei. It will be the little things that derail this idea. The first to scream will be the entrenched bureaucracies on both sides of the border. Issues will include such diverse matters as differentials in spending per pupil, spending per patient day, differing contractual allowances between the two health systems, etc.

    The second to scream will be one of two groups — those teachers and nurses whose workload increases or those whose workload decreases. A general din will arise over differences in individual pay.

    Third to scream the tax-payer, who either has to pay more to make up for the differentials. Alternately, the tax-payers on the other side will holler should they find themselves subsidizing the others services.

    Quit thinking like a political science major, believing that wanting and wishing will make it so. The proverbial devil is in the details, kensei. Integration of differing systems takes more than happy thoughts.

  • Billy

    Mick

    “The events of the last two years have only served to strengthen the DUP’s hand”.

    The DUP have a stronger mandate from the Unionist community but that’s it.

    As time passes Unionism is negotiating from a progessively weaker position, no matter who represents it. Admittedly, the growth in the Catholic/Nationalist population has slowed a lot but the changes in NI demographics still favour nationalism and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

    The DUP can obviously prevent the formation of a local assembly but that’s it. If they don’t move forward, the 2 govts will proceed with joint stewardship. There is no electoral risk for either of the govts with that. The UK electorate don’t care about NI and Unionism has no real voice and little support at Westminster.

    The last remaining challenge for Sinn Fein is policing and the leadership are clearly trying to move forward on that.

    I think it’s clear that, if a clear timetable for assembly restoration is not in place by Nov 24 – the 2 govts will move on. Labour has a leadership election and local govt elections in May to worry about + Bertie has a general election coming.

    As Labour will be in power for a minimum of another 2.5 years and Gordon Brown will not devote anywhere near as much time or effort into NI, the joint stewardship solution clearly suits Nationalism more than Unionism.

    I would say that the DUP are in the same position as all Unionist parties have been – with each successive round of negotiations they are bargaining from a weaker position.

    Their best strategy would be to get the best possible deal this time round.

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris,

    I have picked up some residual thinking that SF is planning to spin out this process even further. But that’s essentially outsider fears.

    It doesn’t make sense to me. But then a lot of things that SF has done and said in the last two years haven’t made sense either.

    I’m generally hearing positive vibes on both sides, but it’s hard to know where they are orginating from.

  • Mick Fealty

    Billy,

    “I would say that the DUP are in the same position as all Unionist parties have been – with each successive round of negotiations they are bargaining from a weaker position”.

    A lot of our commenters believe this to be true, but I struggle to see either the evidence or the logic? There is nothing inevitably one way about this process.

    Weston Park seems to have been a high point for Sinn Fein. Honestly, since then the DUP have been consolidating their position within Unionism – by doing nothing and conceding nothing – meanwhile SF have steadily got more and more stuck. They now resemble the lumbering predictable UUP project they once ran rings around than their former lithe, and endlessly distruptive selves.

    Also, the DUP have been charming people the UUP under Trimble never managed to entirely convince of his bona fides. More than that they’ve been building alliances with other parties that would have been inconceiveable under Trimble.

    All in all, they are well placed to make a deal and carry it off without the need for heavy on the ground consultation. Another election would suit them better than any of the other parties as affirmation of a new deal – the last two years will make it difficult for SF to pull back to anything like the momentum they had before.

    If they were ever serious about attracting middle class voters to the cause, and I have every reason to think they were, the last two years has blown it: possibly for good.

  • kensei

    “Quit thinking like a political science major, believing that wanting and wishing will make it so. The proverbial devil is in the details, kensei. Integration of differing systems takes more than happy thoughts”

    I am not wanting or wishing anything. I am merely following the logic of combined political will and power invested in super councils. The rest follows from this as an immutable law of the universe.

    The question is whether or not they have enough power to do it. Enough to destroy the Union? No. Enough to lay serious groundwork. Certainly.

  • kensei

    Mick.

    The DUP may have consolidated within Unionism, which has undoubtedly placed it in a stronger position in the short term. But the base on which that strength is built is weakening all the time. Regardless of whether or not the magic 50.00001% happens, the Nationalist share of the vote will continue to grow in the foreseeable fututre. That in itself strengthens Nationalism, and weakens Unionism.

    The DUP has talked a good game since they made the Unionist ascendency, but alliances? Certainly not with the Nationalist parties and certainly nothing major with the English ones. Moreover, there has been a lot of window dressing a not a terrible lot of subtance; the DUP still refuse to share power with Nationalism in general and SF in particular and some of the behaviour on councils is ridiculous. And lot of the DUP’s position is our way or the highway.

    And again, saying “No” only works for so long: eventually you have to deliver. This is where parties get “stuck”. They are helped by the UUP doing most of the heavy lifting but that does not rule out the possibility of trouble ahead. Out of power they could take the blame for not closing, in power there is an awful lot SF could do to piss them off.

    On SF, several points. I don’t believe there will be much difficulty in selling a deal to the grassroots, the groundwork for the only major remaining issue has been going on for at least a year and a half now. Second, at some point SF was going to either have to dump or distance itself from its baggage. Unavoidable, and I’m certain they are glad to have had their ‘slump’ well in advance of the Dáil election. Third, it doesn’t actually take many seat gains to count as a forward progression in terms of Dail seats and produce momentum.

    And losing something forever? That’s a rather rash prediction for a political commentator. The SDLP remains moribund, at any rate.

  • Mick Fealty

    My ‘prediction’, as you put it, is not so much a prediction but more to do with ‘tarnishing the brand’. Going into the last two years I would have agreed with you about the SDLP, but I’m not so sure now.

    Although it may have been a reasonable political risk to take it’s never a good strategy to rely on the perceived weakness of your opponents. Next year’s elections (possibly in NI as well as in the Republic) will be the only reliable measurement of whether there has been any serious long term damage, or not.

  • kensei__@hotmail.com

    “My ‘prediction’, as you put it, is not so much a prediction but more to do with ‘tarnishing the brand’. Going into the last two years I would have agreed with you about the SDLP, but I’m not so sure now.”

    Political parties all over have had their “brand” tarnished in the past, and come back from it. Canadiamn Conservatives? English Conservatives? Labour? And the damage isn’t anywhere like that scale – SF are after all, still the largest Nationalist Party.

    The SDLP has had some success by playing up cordite. A deal will effectively neutralise that, and the policy of attacking SF constantly may start to backfire. Demographics skew for SF too.

    “Although it may have been a reasonable political risk to take it’s never a good strategy to rely on the perceived weakness of your opponents. Next year’s elections (possibly in NI as well as in the Republic) will be the only reliable measurement of whether there has been any serious long term damage, or not.”

    SF had to bite the bullet sometime on decommissiong, policing and the like. Not because of Unionism, but because it is such an easy target for opponents in the South. So where do you take the hit?

    In terms of elections, SF will make gains in the South and it doesn’t take an awful lot there to produce forward momentum. And I would be utterly shocked if they didn’t have a few gains in any Northern elections – they still gained last year, at probably their lowest point.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    That seems a reasonable appraisal. Playing it tight to the electoral ground is standard practice for SF, and no doubt will serve them well in the next elections. Also agree there has been a failure with the SDLP not grasping the full opportunity offered them by the last two years of SF’s troubles.

    I also expect some forward movement in the south, but it could be more testing in NI. Deal or no deal, a degree of credibility has been lost to the party that it will find hard to get back. It’s a case of whether the SDLP can grab back some of their lost voters, or if they continue to haemorrage from the ranks of the voting public.

    That requires more than exposing a single weak flank in the current SF position. But it’s biggest existential problem facing it is that in many places SF is now comfortably incumbent. I’d be targeting just a very few winnables, building strong defences around the vulnerables, and rolling out a more convincing narrative that powerfully segments the Nationalist voter base.

    Given the success of the party’s strategy in 2005, in preventing a wipeout, I think the first two are likely to be actioned but they show no sign of actioning the third.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    kensei: “I am not wanting or wishing anything. I am merely following the logic of combined political will and power invested in super councils. The rest follows from this as an immutable law of the universe. ”

    ROFLMAO!

    I think you grossly over-estimate the South’s enthusiam for reunification, de facto or de jure. The super-councils are only one half of the equation and not the big half at that. It is doubtful they will be allowed to cut their own seperate deals with the South on these issues. Even if they are allowed a little daylight in these areas, the differences in the systems, the unintended consequences of the combination of two disparate systems, will undermine any perceived gains.

    I also think you will find that there are no “immutable laws of the universe” that apply to politics and certainly none that apply to bureaucracy. The “physics” of a bureaucracy are strictly Newtonian and that is on a good day.

  • kensei

    “I think you grossly over-estimate the South’s enthusiam for reunification, de facto or de jure. The super-councils are only one half of the equation and not the big half at that. It is doubtful they will be allowed to cut their own seperate deals with the South on these issues. Even if they are allowed a little daylight in these areas, the differences in the systems, the unintended consequences of the combination of two disparate systems, will undermine any perceived gains.”

    Polls in the South consistently show support for reunification.

    Common sense measures remain common sense measure on both sides. If local authgorities here make sensible deal with local authorities in the South, then I suggest the super councils would welcome the fight.

    “I also think you will find that there are no “immutable laws of the universe” that apply to politics and certainly none that apply to bureaucracy. The “physics” of a bureaucracy are strictly Newtonian and that is on a good day. ”

    Rhetorical flourish. Nevertheless, political will and corresponding power will produce some movement, and we’re starting form a low base.

  • darth rumsfeld

    agree with Mick’s analysis @13. The seismic act of decommissioning came far too late to put any pressure on the DUP- just think how completely isolated they would have been if it had happened in 1999. The DUP are being asked to bite the bullet of power sharing which most Unionists have long ago conceded, and they even nearly formally did in November 2004-with the Shinners-everyone in Unionism knows the price for devolution. Most will probably pay that price, provided they see pain for the Shinners on policing. And of course for all the bombast from Gerry about the lawabiding republican community (!) that’s going to be a very hard sell indeed in Ballymurphy. The changes Gerry wants to policing are too great for either government to stomach. So for all the talk about Free P backwoodsmen spontaneously combusting, as usual the focus is on the wrong people. The people who have been out of step for 30 odd years are the republican community, weaned on a diet of MOPEry and an inability to come out from behind the circled wagons. If their leaders are now deservedly crushed by political expediency what are they going to do-go back to armed struggle?

  • Dread Cthuhu

    kensei: “Common sense measures remain common sense measure on both sides.”

    What sounds good as a sound bite on the news seldom reveals that the pitfalls and pratfalls that accompany that notion. Yes, access to the nearest hospital in the case of an emergency is a common sense notion. That said, there are a whole host of bureaucrats, each with their own fiefdom and personal perview, that have to be convinced that its a good idea that they cede some portion of their personal kingdoms in the name of this good idea. One will make a stink about crossing the border, another about who is going to pay the difference between what one plan pays vs. the other. If there is too great a disparity, your wonderful “common sense measure” will run dead on into a buzzsaw of bureaucratic red tape. Bureaucracies do not run on “common sense measures.” I would have thought you realized that by now.

    kensei: “Nevertheless, political will and corresponding power will produce some movement, and we’re starting form a low base. ”

    Oh, some of the dominos will wobble — one or two may even topple. But its not going to be the neat and simple wave the wand you keep trying to pass it off as. Political will is nice. But its not going to create a working interface between the disparate systems, nor the resultant bureaucratic nightmares that arise in the wake of even a “good” arrangement. Likewise, there are any number of spanners that can fall or be thrown into the works.

  • lib2016

    “…there are any number of spanners…”

    The point is that especially in the Civil Service the spanners are now reaching retirement age. Check the ‘Equal Opportunity Commission’ website for frequent observations of the fact that the NI Civil Service is becoming the preserve of Catholic women.

    This situation is becoming so extreme that eventually discrimination in favour of Protestant applicants may be required. What a pity all unionist politicans oppose such practices as Fair Employment laws!

    The majority of people in middle management in NI are Catholics and within the next few years so will the majority of senior management be from a nationalist background.

    Despite constant denials from unionists on this site and elsewhere the demographics of the NI population are changing, and this is reflected in the workplace.

    It so happens that the changes are disproportionally evident in the Civil Service, a fact which can be easily checked on the ‘Equality’ website.

  • lib2016

    I will concede that though the spanners may increasingly be Catholic the nuts will continue to be Protestant nuts. Sorry, couldn’t resist. 😉

  • kensei

    “Oh, some of the dominos will wobble—one or two may even topple. But its not going to be the neat and simple wave the wand you keep trying to pass it off as. ”

    I am patently NOT trying to pass it over as a simple wave. If you have that impression you have the wrong end of the stick. Regardless of compliactions, the pressure remains.

    And as I said before, negativity helps no one.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    kensei: “And as I said before, negativity helps no one. ”

    Do not mistake a hearty cynicism and past experience with bureaucracies as undue negativity, kensei. A realistic understanding of the size and scope of an undertaking should be a prerequisite, not an afterthought.

    lib2016: “The point is that especially in the Civil Service the spanners are now reaching retirement age. Check the ‘Equal Opportunity Commission’ website for frequent observations of the fact that the NI Civil Service is becoming the preserve of Catholic women. ”

    First, Catholic does not always mean Nationalist. Secondly, just becuase the bureaucrat would appear to sympathize with you does not mean they will actually help you. A bureaucracy is like an oil tanker — regardless of how fast you spin the wheel, its ability to actually change course is limited. No matter how hard you believe in leprachauns and clap your hands, the super-councils are not going to win the day. They will, at best, be a small step. Kensei is long on “won’t it be wonderful!” and woefully short on “and this is how were going to do it and how it will work.” Until and unless a working interface between the two bureaucracies can be devised, its going to be a pipe-dream. Even that does nothing to address the unintended, but readily forseeable, problems that will arise from such an interface.

    For example, even if its just a simple clearing house for medical care and reimbursement, there is still the matter of level of reimbursement — if there is a differential between what N.I. pays and the ROI hospital expects, will the patient have to make up the difference? Will these rates be subject to currency fluctuation? Will ambulances now be exempt from border considerations? If shifts in hospital utilization become sufficiently great, will hospitals be closed as redundant?

    Bureaucracies follow the three laws of infernal dynamics (hat tip: Solomon Short)

    1) An object at rest in is the wrong place;
    2) An object in motion is going the wrong direction; and
    3) The amount of energy required to correct either 1) or 2) above is never so much as to be objectively impossible but always more than the viewer would care to expend.