From April Fool to Friday the Thirteenth…

Well not quite, since the Belfast Agreement was brokered on April the tenth. But it is appropriate to consider, that this is not yet an agreement. It looks like the DUP is solid behind the plan, and the key concession appears to be that the Assembly gets to say when policing powers get devolved. Perhaps Sinn Fein were finally pursuaded that the SDLP was right on that one: or perhaps it was a straw man all along? Another thing to keep an eye on is whether they go for a re-election, or a 32 County Referendum. Paisley is said to be easy about either. But, interestingly, a referendum is said to be Bertie’s favoured option. Sinn Fein, apparently, is up for an early election, being already in mobilisation mode, and hoping that any forward movement in Northern Ireland will create a bounce in the Republic.

And in which case they might finally leapfrog their latest stagnant poll figure and get the bounce they had hoped once for after decommissioning. In which case Bertie’s not going to be too keen to do Sinn Fein any more favours than he has to!!

  • willowfield

    We all knew the DUP’s opposition to the Agreement was bogus.

    It was only a matter of time before they signed up to it.

    Their opposition was all about defeating the UUP.

  • austin

    Willow field,

    Has the DUP not wrung more concession in this deal than Trimble did in the GFA?
    Is there any less power to the All-Ireland institutions

  • willowfield

    Like what?

    Any concessions it has wrung will have been matched by concessions to the Provos. That’s how it works.

    At the end of the day, the DUP is signing up to the Belfast Agreement. (As they did in December 2003.)

  • Pete Baker

    Mick

    The significance of a 32 county wide referendum – in reality it would be two separate referenda – is that it would be needed to update the 1998 result.. ie to confirm any changes to that agreement.. which is probably why the DUP would be in favour and why SF would prefer anything else – although the DUP would probably quite like a crack at decimating the UUP too. Bertie, on the other hand, wouldn’t be overly concerned about the implication of holding such referenda.

    But the Assembly has had the final say on policing powers since the legislating of the quadruple lock mechanism – A concession would have been any change to that situation.

    Sinn Féin in contrast have been forced to climb down from the very high horse they placed themselves on in their demand that the devolution of those powers occur before they would sign up to policing – That’s the only major concession on policing that’s apparent from anyone.

    It’s a position that they stated in January and, despite the occasional wobble during the year when vague suggestions to the contrary were made, Martin McGuinness was back to repeating that same line just yesterday.

    I’m not entirely clear what they think they’ve got in return.. Paisley agreeing to take the First Minister’s post? In shadow form? A purely symbolic position unless everything else has been delivered by 14th March? There will probably be the rustling of private letters of understanding in the background at some point..

  • Mark McGregor

    The main commitment that SF have on policing was set through the Ard Fheis and is copied below anything asked for beyond that may have been a negotiating demand but is not fully party policy. The motion has the policy. The agreement recognises there is more work required from the parties on this so it does seem as if Sinn Fein have been flexible on this area but anything asked for beyond the motion’s requirements was, as far as the constituition of the party is concerned, optional. (or at least thats my reading)

    It should be an interesting debate and still won’t be easy for many people but it has created the space for stable power sharing with the DUP and thank god for that maturity and the reciprocal maturity the DUP appear to be developing.

    395. This Ard Fheis calls for the creation of the new beginning to policing, in accordance with
    the principles of the Good Friday Agreement. A key requirement in this is democratic
    accountability. In the Six Counties, this requires the transfer of powers on policing and justice
    away from London and out of the hands of British securocrats to restored, democratically
    elected institutions in Ireland.
    The Sinn Fein President will propose to the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle that it calls a
    special Ard Fheis to decide Sinn Fein’s position on new policing arrangements in the context
    of:
    • Agreement between the parties on the departmental model and powers to be
    transferred;
    • The enactment by the British government of the legislation to give full expression to
    this transfer of powers on policing and justice away from London;
    • A DUP commitment to an acceptable timeframe for the transfer of powers on policing
    and justice.
    • A position paper would go to all levels of the party for discussion to inform a
    comprehensive debate leading up to the special Ard Fheis.

  • Mark McGregor

    Additionally, while pretty irrelevant this agreement is an absolute failure for the SDLP above all other parties.

    The DUP entered the talks seeking changes to the GFA – they got them.

    Sinn Fein have always regarded the GFA as a starting point and hope to change it more and more over time – they secured changes.

    The UUP started rejecting the GFA early on.

    The SDLP have consistently styled themselves as defenders of the GFA, the pure GFA and nothing but the GFA and entered these negotiations with a position of ensuring implemention of the GFA with no change.

    Each and every one of the long list of changes is a failure for the SDLP, its negotiations team and its stated objectives.

    But as I said their failure is pretty irrelevant though entirely expected.

  • Intelligence Insider

    Austin,
    Do you really believe that the DUP have brought about a “fair deal”, in fact, does anyone believe that they are capable of doing so?
    Paisley, to me, only seems interested in wrecking the real Unionist Party, that has been his aim from his outset.

  • smcgiff

    I’ve sympathy for Willowfield and II’s position.

    We now know for certain that SF were willing to sign up to policing.

    So, what have the DUP gained that wouldn’t have been gained through the normal funcion of the assembly as lead by David Trimble?

    If the Assembly had been functioning for the last 4 years it’s inconceivable to think that SF wouldn’t have been nudged into policing.

    Could the IRA have been curtailed earlier. Did the DUP’s actions give the IRA more leg room to store away “the pension fund”.

    Paisley’s greatest triumph is not that he got SF to sign up to policing, but that he’s stolen Trimble’s legacy.

    Dev once said something along the lines that in the fullness of time history would record Michael Collins great deeds at the expense of his own reputation.

    I trust future historians will draw similar conclusions to Trimble and Paisley actions.

  • smcgiff

    ‘Sinn Féin in contrast have been forced to climb down from the very high horse they placed themselves’

    You’ve seen enough politics, and if not politics then drama, to realise there needs to be in built wriggle room. Otherwise known as throwing a bone.

    The DUP didn’t get photos, the return of €26m or a dossier on the IRA.

  • Pete Baker

    Mark

    It’s up to you whether you believe the conditions set by that motion have been met

    The Sinn Fein President will propose to the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle that it calls a
    special Ard Fheis to decide Sinn Fein’s position on new policing arrangements in the context
    of..

    And note, in particular, the timetable mentioned there

    • A DUP commitment to an acceptable timeframe for the transfer of powers on policing
    and justice.

    Up to today the official statements have emphasising that such a call would only come when the various conditions had already been met – ie after the Executive was up and running.

    I can link to the various statements from everyone from Gerry Adams down if you really need them… it’s one area I’ve covered in considerable detail here on Slugger.

  • Grainne

    So does Sinn Fein not regard the end of academic selection as important either? Is this what it has in common with the DUP? Does only policing count?

  • smcgiff

    Grainne,

    Now that they’ve decided to talk and work together they may now move on to policies and real politics. However, it looks like AS has already been sacrificed as part of the deal.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    The DUP crumbled when it came to taking the hard decisions, the thought of losing all their MLA’s was not sustainable in the constituencies the members would have been in revolt.

    So I would like to see the MAJOR changes that there are to the GFA that are advantageous to unionists and the additional concessions to SF should be an interesting scale to look at.

    We have had no Government for several years and the DUP collapsed in a pile of very deep hypocrisy and they turned ever principle they held on its head.

    Jeffery Donaldson is the biggest hypocrite of all being elected as a member of the UUP and then switching to the DUP as a matter of principle – where is that priciple now is he going to resign?

  • Henry94

    The main thing is we have a deal which is possibly close to what the GFA woulod have been if the DUP had been involved in negotiationg it in the first place. We can’t get those 12 years back so let’s just move on.

    To start posting up peoples previous statements positions and bottom lines is as utterly pointless an exercise as one might imagine.

    Some positions you are forced to abandon and others are designed to be abandoned.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Henry

    Seems we have to forgive terrorists, murderers, hypocrites and incompetents the list just keeps growing.

    I’m just sick of the lot of them, I thought the Labour party gave politicians a bad name in the last couple of years, they are amateurs the DUP give politicians and clergymen a much worse one!

    The GFA is dead and buried and a New Fair Deal I seem to remember. Now the GFA has had a miraculous recovery as the New Fair deal St. Andrews agreement – the whitewash is a bit thin though and the GFA is showing through all over the place.

    It is all about personal gain in status …… for a clergyman not the people of NI.

  • Question is though, when will the DUP admit that they were wrong in there critizism of the GFA (and the UU party).

    After all; a lot of the ‘concessions’ to unionists in this agreement would not have come about if the original assembly had been sitting. RPA, academic, selection rates…

    Yet now we have
    – 50/50 set in stone
    – a Irish language act
    – north-south parliamentary forum
    – north-south consultative forum
    – secretarait for the british irish council
    – east-west parliamentary framework

    Hmmm doesn’t really seem fair does it? Oh wait we have ‘support’ for the Ulster Scots… Yippeee we’re saved!

  • willowfield

    Exactly, Fermanagh … so much for the DUP’s “fair deal”!

  • Observer

    I agree that a lot of the substance of the agreement still remains, but the DUP have always been more in tune with Unionist bogeymen and they know it’s these that have to be addressed (IRA arms, policing etc.) before the DUP sign up to anything.

    After all, it’s these issues that they’ve been exploiting all along and which they undermined the UUP with. All the other unpalatable issues are likely to be blamed on the UUP (remember the large demilitarization after the IRA statement).

    Like the proverbial scapegoat the DUP have successfully wrote all the perceived ‘sins’ of the peace process on the UUP’s hide and are intent on sending it out to the wilderness to die. I’m sure the “doc” of all people would like the analogy.

    It’s a damn shame though, considering the UUP basically did all the heavy-lifting. Anyway I’m rambling. :p

  • Paul P

    FYU and Willowfield?

    Did David Trimble and his party go into power sharing goverment with those who did not endorse the enforcement of law and order in Northern Ireland?

    A yes or no answer wil do.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Paul P

    The UUP didn’t walk away, they stuck at it without the UUP efforts the DUP would be in the wilderness.

    The old saying is so true ‘often the man who ploughs and sows the crop gives the profits to others who do no work.’

    If you wants to support shirkers and hypocrites then be my guest.

  • smithsonian

    Paul P
    In what context did Paisley use the phrase “Never, Never, Never”?

  • willowfield

    Paul P

    Any deal the DUP do with the Provos to revive the institutions of the Belfast Agreement is predicated on everything that the UUP did before them – including “jumping first” and proving to the world that it was not unionists who were afraid of power-sharing, but nationalists who were unwilling fully to accept democracy.

    Trimble has been vindicated.

    The DUP shown up for its extreme cynicism.

  • willowfield

    Paisley claimed the DUP had never reneged on any of its pledges.

    When are they going to “smash Sinn Féin”?

    When are they going to “destroy” the Belfast Agreement?

    Why are they prepared to share power with a party dedicated to the destruction of NOrthern Ireland, when they have previously pledged never to do so?

  • Paul P

    If the St Andrews Agreement is adhered to then SF will have to support the Police Service of NORTHERN IRELAND. Then unionists will share power. This is unlike any previous deal. This is why unionism will support it, unlike any previous aggreement.

    Did/could David Trimble manage to achieve that?

  • smithsonian

    Paul P
    Yeah right, like the DUP have suddenly invented negoitating.

    Irish civil servants in the North (Never, Never, Never), Irish Language protocols, increased North South co-operation. Sell it to me! Tell me it is what you always wanted.

  • Paul P

    The SAA agreement will be a lot easier to sell than the BA.

    Republicans supporting the enforcement of British law on the island of Ireland, before unionists share power.

  • Observer

    Paul P, you are correct in implying that Trimble would not have got that kind of deal, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that Paisley would have back in 1998.

    The current political dealings are heavily based on what has gone before them. In terms of policing and IRA arms, the SF leadership would never have moved this much even 5 years ago, nevermind in 98 – irrespective of how much Paisley fulminated.

  • willowfield

    Paul P

    Provo support for policing is predicated on everything that went before it: the inevitable consequence of the Belfast Agreement.

    Yes, of course Trimble would have achieved it. It’s all part of the GFA dynamic. And sooner were he not undermined by Paisley et al.

  • smithsonian

    Paul P
    Not from what I’m hearing. There is no fair deal, no new deal, just tinkering at the edges. The only thing that has changed is that Paisley like Blair doesn’t care about principle he just wants a legacy.

    Smash Sinn Fein, why don’t ye.

  • Kenny

    Pete

    I would agree that the biggest single “concession” was Sinn Fein signing up to policing before the devolution of powers. However, their original position was never a realistic propsect, and I believe for most nationalists, the new “agreement” is not a show stopper.

    Do you really believe that Paisley’s only concession is to take up the shadow first minister’s post. Here’s a thought –

    50/50 recruitment for the PSNI to remain in place until it’s membership reaches 35% Catholic.

    No dossier on past “IRA criminality” to be given to the RUC.

    No return of the Northern Bank Money.

    No changes to the North South Committees etc.

    Also, all this stuff about water charges, rates etc is being spun by both sides but particularly Unionists. There is no guarantee of any of this -purely a commitment by Gordon Brown to meet with local politicians and review them.

    I hope and believe that this agreement will be accepted by the people and we can move on.

    However, you seem to be painting a blatently one-sided picture that the DUP conceded nothing on their demands and got everything that they wanted.

    This interpretation is patently not supported by the facts.

  • Paul P

    Willlowfield,
    “Yes, of course Trimble would have achieved it.”

    But he didn’t. He went into goverment with SF before any decommissioning and before SF agreed to support the enforcement of law and justice.

    “It’s all part of the GFA dynamic”
    What GFA dynamic? Republicans bag the goodies and wait until the next round to win more.

    Observer,
    You are right that the present political dealings are based upon what has gone before. David Trimble/UUP had done a heck of a lot of damage! I actually think the DUP overestimated what could be retrieved and achieved.

    But it is hugely significant that what now has been achieved is that Irish Republicanism will have to endorse the enforcement of British law on the isalnd of Ireland before unionists share power.

  • smithsonian

    Paul P
    You are not presenting the facts accurately.

    Adams will ask the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle to call and Ard Fheis to consider the issue of policing.

    Then Paisley and Magennis will be nominated to OFDFM on November 24th

    The Ard Fheis will not consider the matter until January 2007

    Paisley will accept the role of First minster and partnership with Magennis BEFORE SF make the commitment policing.

  • Observer

    Paul P,

    I agree it is/will be very significant if Sinn Fein endorse policing, and it’s certainly understandable if the DUP take that back to their electorate as a concession and are justifiably proud of that.

    However, it’s also a good example of how the DUP are benefiting from what has gone before. Sinn Fein are endorsing a re-structured police force, not *radically* reformed true, but this issue would have been far more difficult and possibly intractable had the police force in question been the ‘old’ RUC.

  • willowfield

    Paul P

    But he didn’t.

    Really, he did. It was just that the job was finished by Paisley. But the legacy will be Trimble’s – he did all the hard stuff.

    He went into goverment with SF before any decommissioning and before SF agreed to support the enforcement of law and justice.

    Indeed. And, as a result, Paisley has been able to finish off the implementation of the Belfast Agreement.

    What GFA dynamic? Republicans bag the goodies and wait until the next round to win more.

    The GFA dynamic that has led to Paisley’s endorsement of it.

  • willowfield

    Actually, wasn’t it Trimble going into government that prompted the Provos to start decommissioning?

    Yes, I think it was.

  • willowfield

    Good comments by Observer.

    The reform of the RUC was necessary to achieve Provo endorsement.

    Paisley opposed reform in principle and castigated Trimble, yet now he is happy to champion Provo endorsement, which comes as a result of Trimble’s work.

    There’s something rather cynical in Paisley’s logic, right?

  • Paul P

    Willowfield,

    “Actually, wasn’t it Trimble going into government that prompted the Provos to start decommissioning?”

    Do you honestly believe this? How were the Provos “prompted” by Trimble to decommission?

    There never was verifiable, transparent decommissioning. Neither Trimble or Paisley mangaged that. But achieving the endorsement by SF of policing in Northern Ireland before executive power sharing or the devloving of policing and justice is really quite a delivery by the DUP. This will be as good as getting verifiable, transparent decommissioning in many unionists eyes.

    Smithsonian,

    There will be no executive power sharing goverment before SF deliver on policing and justice and accept that devolving policing and justice powers requires cross community support in the Stormont assembley.

  • willowfield

    Paul P

    Do you honestly believe this?

    Given that it happened, yes, of course.

    How were the Provos “prompted” by Trimble to decommission?

    He pressured them into doing so by setting up the power-sharing government; collapsed it when they didn’t follow up on it; and forced them into a second act by setting up the government again. Don’t you remember?

    There never was verifiable, transparent decommissioning. Neither Trimble or Paisley mangaged that.

    It happened nonetheless. Even Paisley accepts that now. A victory for unionism that people like you would rather view as a defeat.

    But achieving the endorsement by SF of policing in Northern Ireland before executive power sharing or the devloving of policing and justice is really quite a delivery by the DUP.

    All predicated on what went before: the Belfast Agreement that the DUP so cycnically pretended to oppose. Predicated on reform of the RUC which the DUP opposed!

    This will be as good as getting verifiable, transparent decommissioning in many unionists eyes.

    It’s great. And all thanks to the Belfast Agreement.