Filling in the gaps (whichever way you want)…

The most striking thing about the St Andrews Agreement is its lack of detail. But it is clear that the two main parties are proceding to fill in the gaps for themselves and coming up with radically different answers. The hurried emergence of Jim Alister as a dissident-in-chief for the DUP may be an indication that that party was not expecting the pressure Hain and Blair actually put on them on Thursday afternoon to strike the framework of a deal. That Sinn Fein were the only party to ask for a private meeting after the final plenary may also indicate that it was as much as surprise to them as their unionist rivals.All the significant detail now seems up for competitive interpretation. Take the Irish Language Act. Sinn are banking on it bringing in a general requirement of billinguallism, whilst the DUP see it embodying the minimal version of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, with all the caveats that might constrain rollout to levels of useage.

The ‘new timetable’, which effectively reduces the big one of 24th November to a waystage, also has added flexibility. It may simply have been a device to get both parties to (or seem to) leapfrog their long stated objections, and spin the Peace Process™ out just a wee bit longer.

Liddington’s tip to the Alliance a few months ago that people might need to look to November next year, rather than this one, comes back into view perhaps.

  • Stamper

    I don’t imagine Alister ’emerged’ as a critic. He has his eye on a Westminster seat.

    I can’t imagine he’d be making these sort of waves unless he got the nod from his colleagues.

  • Much is being made of some apparent dissention within D.U.P ranks, however one also needs to look at the much less obvious, but arguably much more significant possiblity of dissention within mainstream Republican circles.

    In particular, the objections of Oliver Hughes who resigned from Sinn Fein several weeks ago. The Hughes family is hugely respected within both local and national republican circles, and the concerns which Oliver Hughes voiced about the acceptance of policing as part of The St Andrews Agreement should not be under-estimated. This issue was always going to be the acid test for the party leadership and already I have heard that the proposed Ard Fheis could be a much stormier affair than anyone within the leadership would desire.

    Some Unionists (naively) assume that SF is a closed shop in terms of swinging its core support behind agreed political initiatives, however the issue of policing is an incredibly sensitive issue for the many thousands of republicans who suffered to varying degrees at the hands of the RUC for over three decades.

    This is one issue where the party rank and file will not simply meekly accept the usual “big picture” diatribe when The Ard Fheis is called…

  • Mick Fealty

    macs,

    That’s the most incisive comment I’ve seen on this end of the subject since closure on Friday. Surely, though, the departure of Hughes and perhaps a few others would left the leadership with greater balance of those prepared to sign up for the St Andrew’ deal?

  • Building Controller

    I think you may have got it wrong about Hughes. He was on Talkback last week stating he was loyal to the policy of the SF leadership, and that his resignation was about a domestic internecine dispute with SF in South Derry.

    AFAIK he is a moderate, despite his republican family credentials and the newer SF Councillors in M’Felt are hardliners

  • the horse

    Mick, sorry to be pedantic, but the DUP MEP is Jim Allister, not Alister. Your standards are slipping lol.

  • idunnomeself

    The Language Act

    Totally out of left field, this agreement seems to say it will be enacted by ‘The Government’- IE before March (which i suppose might be pushing the bounds of possibility?). Presumably to allow it to be considerably more powerful than Stormont would vote through?

    Language is, after all, a devolved matter

    Pobal have drafted a suggested language act, IMHO it pushes at the boundaries of the possible, perhaps other Irish speakers could comment, like OC

    both from the point of view of what they feel is ideally desirable

    and what they think is realistically deliverable

  • This is one issue where the party rank and file will not simply meekly accept the usual “big picture” diatribe when The Ard Fheis is called

    I agree

  • páid

    If the language act has as one of it’s sections, a clause which forbids the use of English, I would have a problem with it.

    Jim Alister reckons it might ‘sanitise’ Ulster of it’s Britishness.

    Oh sweet Jesus.

    If this is the calibre of the opponents, should one laugh or cry?

  • macswiney

    Mick,

    Thanks for that, and to answer your question, I would say that Oliver’s departure in itself has no real bearing on any policing recommendations that the Ard Comhairle itself will make. Clearly The Ard Comhairle had already privately discussed and ratified such a move well in advance of last weeks St Andrews talks.

    Rather, it is a very potent indicator that complete, unqualified support for policing is going to be extremely difficult to obtain from a sizeable number within the party rank and file. Many of us within ‘mainstream’ Republicanism have realised for many years that support for policing was going to be a hundred times more difficult issue than that of decommissioning.

    I think Oliver Hughes has been extremely astute and clever in continuing to say that he generally supports the party leadership, while also being highly critical of any proposed moves to give unqualified support to policing. It allows his views to have much more weight while leaving the party leadership no scope to ostracise him in any way.

    It’s interesting that Chris also agrees with my comments and my own advise to the leadership (for what its worth) is that any visible “pledge” for policing (as has been suggested/agreed?) might prove to be utterly catastrophic in the long term. The PSNI is still a hugely predominant Protestant policing service and the proposal to abolish 50/50 policing in 3 years time may be a concession too far.

    My understanding is that most of the new Catholic recruits in the past few years have been from rural areas with virtually no recruitment within urban Nationalist/Republican areas (ie Belfast, Derry, Newry etc…). The party leadership are going to encounter a lot of resistance and it will be very interesting to see how they intend to handle or meet these concerns…

  • “the proposal to abolish 50/50 policing in 3 years time may be a concession too far.”

    I will have to disagree with you there macswiney.

    I 100% oppose 50/50 policing, it is discrimination.

    As I Republican I can never accept any measure of discrimination.

  • macswiney

    Chris,

    We probably all agree with that general principle but this contentious issue needs to be looked at with greater scope. With virtually zero recruitment to the PSNI fron urban nationalist/republcan areas, the abolishment of 50/50 recruitment in just 3 years time will mean that the PSNI will remain a force with a massive religous imbalance.

    No recruits from Republican areas, and just a minimal number from more middle class rural Nationalist areas. In effect, the DUP are securing the liklihood of a vastly Protestant police force for decades to come…

  • macswiney

    If you sacrafice your principles for the sake of political expediency then you no longer have principles.

    The reason why 50/50 is bogus is because, as I am sure you are aware, a Catholic peelers boot feels the same as a Protestants.

    We need to change the modus operandi of the RUC/PSNI, it needs to change from being the armed wing of Unionism and the political arm of the securocrats to being a police service that works for everyone.

    50/50 will not achieve that!

    The reason why we don’t have more Catholics joining is because the majority of Catholics/Nationalists don’t support the RUC/PSNI. When we get the new beginning that we were promised then you will see a diference.

    Selection by merit, not by religion!

  • headmelter

    “We need to change the modus operandi of the RUC/PSNI,”

    Resistance to change needs to be reduced, no better way in my opinion than to dilute the hardcore resistance, even if it is with some middle class culchies.
    Change is more effective from within.

  • Urquhart

    Chris Gaskin – “If you sacrafice your principles for the sake of political expediency then you no longer have principles.”

    LOL.

  • “The reason why we don’t have more Catholics joining is because the majority of Catholics/Nationalists don’t support the RUC/PSNI. When we get the new beginning that we were promised then you will see a diference.

    Selection by merit, not by religion!”

    ——————————————
    CHRIS,

    I am somewhat bemused by this. Firstly, the entire point I was actually making was that there is indeed no support for the PSNI within Nationalist areas. Secondly, you seem to be proclaiming or even heralding a new dawn in policing ie “When we get the new beginning that we were promised then you will see a diference”.

    Excatly how do you think that will be acheived then? Although 50/50 recruitment was reverse discrimination in itself, the party seemed to give it (at least) tacit support initially. If this is abolished, we are left with a vastly imbalanced police force for decades to come…

    As for “selection by merit not by religon”, this is ludicrous in the current context of policing here. Catholics from urban areas still wont join the police (10 years after the agreement!!), so how will SF giving full backing to policing now change that? It’s the one issue where the party leadership seem desperately out of touch with much of our grass roots opinion.

    For myself and others, this will be the final straw. The time is not right for such a seismic move and I will certainly be withdrawing any electoral support if a (stage-managed) Ard Fheis endorses any such proposals…

  • Idunnomself

    macswiney
    so they’re the wrong sort of Catholics joining the police?

    Who else will you vote for?

    The 50:50 is going to be stopped because the workforce of the PSNI will be basically balanced, and because there won’t be any need for it any more. My experience is that there are now lots of Catholics applying.

    I should also point out that most of them are university educated.. i expect that the ‘right kind’ of Catholics you want to join aren’t.. and so might be at a disadvantage..

  • I should also point out that most of them are university educated.. i expect that the ‘right kind’ of Catholics you want to join aren’t.. and so might be at a disadvantage..

    He is talking about Nationalist and Republicans, not “castle catholics”

    I am University educated and Republican. Universities all over this country are coming down with Republicans.

    What very flawed logic!

  • idunnomeself

    He didn’t say ‘republican’, he said ‘urban’, and he implied working class in his Oct 17 @10.35 post

    As I say these types of people are less likely to have the educational qualifications they need to compete with the rural, middle class Catholics apparantly rushing into the PSNI

    Because Nationalist Republican urban areas suffer severe educational disadvantage, I know this because your press office spits out New TSN press releases all the time!