A not so cunning plan…

Brian Feeney casts his steely eye over the NIO’s grand plan for pressurising the DUP into making a deal and figures they have been pressing at the wrong points, so that almost everyone but the DUP (and, although he doesn’t mention them, SF) will feel the pinch.

So far our beautifully-maintained proconsul has been doing his best. Abolition of the 11-plus, changes to rates, introduction of water charges, implementing the review of public administration with seven super councils – all come into operation after November 24. There is a hint that there is even worse to come.

But…

You can see it’s a cunning plan concocted by some eejit in the NIO, their equivalent of Baldrick, because none of Paisley’s voters will blame Paisley. On the contrary, they blame our proconsul and his unaccountable officials.

They’re outraged at the stupid and obvious blackmail aimed at middle-class unionist voters who stand to lose most from the changes to rates, abolition of selection and water charges based on rateable value of homes. They even ignore the truth that the political parties actually planned to introduce all these measures themselves if they’d been in an administration. What is certain is that this cunning plan exerts no pressure at all on Paisley.

And then…

The other line of attack is the threat of increased Dublin input into the north – the ‘New Partnership’ between the two governments tantalisingly dangled as Plan B. Don’t hold your breath.

Indeed…

The idea is that the UUP will be able to say that Paisley, the man who has ranted against Dublin interference since he threw snowballs at Sean Lemass’s car 40 years ago, in a supreme irony is now the man who has caused more Dublin interference than any previous unionist leader.

By refusing to share power Paisley has brought Dublin officials and politicians into northern affairs in a more direct way than ever before and in such fashion that it can never be rolled back.

The trouble, as the alacritous Mr Feeney puts it, is… “that its creators forget that the DUP has expanded and changed”. But of course there is a rub. And it is an existential one, not one that arises from outside pressure:

Now the problem for Paisley is this. Even if he wanted to make a deal, about half his party don’t want it. For the first time in his career he has to deal with guys more ideologically pure than himself, guys for whom the DUP is not merely a political party but the political expression of a theological position.

Yet Paisley knows this is his last chance. If he doesn’t do a deal and have an assembly election in the next nine months the DUP will wither away. Oh yes, there will still be the nine or 10 MPs but without a platform the party will begin to disintegrate. The SDLP never recovered from the collapse of the Convention in 1976. The choice for Paisley is not whether to stop water charges or more Dublin involvement.

The choice is whether to maintain the political party he built up from nothing and the new generation of loyalist politicians, or allow it to dissolve into groups of ageing backwoodsmen in rural councils. If the assembly goes down, the DUP, the devolutionist party, goes down with it.

The answer, you might think, is a no brainer.

But the age profile of current DUP councillors is certainly high, though there is also some youthful talent. The re-organisation of councils will automatically dispose of a lot of the aging backwoodsmen Feeney fingers are the deadwood. Dispensing with the Assembly is not something any of the parties want. But the DUP could live with it as well as any.

There would be a certain bitter irony, if Tony Blair’s devolution project left the one part of the UK which historically had devolution ended up opting (however reluctantly) directly into a unitary British state.

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  • Paul P

    As a DUP voter In a strange position that for the first time ever I find myself agreeing with most of Feeney’s analysis!

    If the DUP can stall a deal a bit and show that they didn’t cave in to the November 24th or else threat and get a good deal on policing and justice, then Dr Paisley should deal. The positive response he would get from most of the unionist electorate would help to neuter if not silence the No Deal Ever faction in his party.

  • Bushmills

    Quoth Dr. Hate “the SDLP never recovered from the fall of the Convention in 1976” – well they stumbled on alright for 25 years after the event before being over-taken by Sinn Fein/IRA.

    If the DUP do a deal by November, which I doubt will happen, Paisley will face no opposition internally. He is the undisputed leader of the DUP, if he recommends a deal it will stick with the DUP faithful and probably cement the centre-ground of Unionism that has come over to the DUP in recent elections. It will probably also srew the Ulster Unionists. What are they going to do? Accuse the DUP of sell-out? Given their record whose going to listen?

  • Julian Robertson

    There is no doubt Hain has been let off the leash to do what he like here, some of which goes against what the Govt are doing in GB and some they would simply not dare do there. Whilst Hain is universally despised, it is his boss who has let him get on with it so remeber that the next time Blair goes all bleary eyed with hands of history etc ad nauseam.

    I am not so sure however that we can expect the DUP to fade away quite so easily: A rallying call to defend Ulster will always work wonders; the DUP are a disciplined party; the UUP are having trouble punching their way out of a wet paper bag at the mo so landing punches on the DUP might be difficult; the proconsul may well leave us to lord it over the Labour Party so who knows who will come in then.

    Hankies at the ready to wave Hain goodbye everyone.

  • Insider

    Breaking news:

    Peter Robinson and Gerry Adams have had a secret meeting.
    Hands were shaken.
    The deal is done.
    Woo Hoo.

  • Briso

    Insider

    I’ll believe it when Marty and the old Galapagos turtle shake on it. 😉

  • English

    Does it really matter to Britain if there isn’t a deal. I don’t think that anyone in government really thinks that the DUP have any intention sharing power with Sinn Fein.

    This situation will give Britain a licence to continue with cut backs and the downsizing of the comparatively huge public sector over here. Failure to reach agreement could save London money in the long term, and with it create conditions for greater Anglo-Irish co-operation by stealth.

    What is more – the NI politicians here will get the blame for an opportunity lost and the various changes that are going to hit people in the pocket.

  • rapunsel

    ” Hain is universally despised ”

    Is he? Was there a referendum on it? Funny I haven’t really heard anyone expressing that sentiment about him. Is he any worse than our own local politicians? No. I doubt I’m the only one but many people I speak to just don’t care about the absence of the assembly and local ministers . Can we really say that things will be better– I doubt it but accept the argument that we will have a chance to change that at elections and might enjoy better access to decision makers. One other thing– I finmd myself hoping that there is no deal at least not until after Mr Paisley senior is deceased. I’m neither a republican or a nationalist but the thought of that sectarian old man as the first minister here is one sick joke. I am quite sure that many unionist people feel the same about leading shinners despite thir protestations about wanting to share power.

  • aquifer

    Ireland is being governed ‘as one’ as promised to Martin McGuiness et al. And Paisley does not really mind, he would rather have catholic irish than english infidel, and if he lets it all be done unto him he gets to play the martyr, again. So no deal but hey, big deal.

  • Billy

    Bushmills

    You are correct to say that Paisley is the undoubted leader of his party.

    If he deals now (unlikely), he will likely hold them together. However, he is now in his 81st year so for how much longer can he go on?

    It’s when he goes that the DUP will have issues. It’s obvious to any impartial observer that the DUP has it’s fundamentalist (Free Presbyterian) wing with Allister, McCrea etc and it’s more pragmatic (non Free Presbyterian) wing with Robinson, Donaldson etc.

    Without Paisley’s grip, there is much more likely to be dissention between the two.

    The DUP seem to be deluding themselves that they are setting the agenda – nonsense. All this stuff about Blair wanting a “legacy” in NI is crap – Blair’s legacy is and always will be Iraq.

    If Blair can get a deal – great. If he can’t he’ll just gladly move on to joint stewardship with the RoI govt.

    Either way, it will fit in with the UK govt’s strategy of cutting back on the massive public expenditure in NI and of withdrawal by stealth.

    I think the key point that many Unionists overlook (or choose to) is that NI is a total non issue in UK elections and that the vast majority of the UK electorate couldn’t give a toss whether NI stays in the UK or not.

  • DK

    The DUP may have its roots in the Free Presbytarian Church, but the adherants to this church make up a tiny percentage of the protestants in NI. So they also make up a tiny percentage of voters. If they are really so against any deal no matter what (and this is a total assuption) then their numbers mean that they could be ignored were it not for some members of their church in senior positions in the DUP. I think they and their influence are being over-estimated.

  • darth rumsfeld

    like a million monkeys with their million typewriters eventually typing “Hamlet” even Bilious Brian with a million columns of cack was always going to get it right eventually

  • Briso

    Posted by Insider on Oct 12, 2006 @ 07:54 PM

    >Breaking news:

    >Peter Robinson and Gerry Adams have had a secret meeting.
    >Hands were shaken.
    >The deal is done.
    >Woo Hoo.

    Mmmmm, maybe you did know something….