Gap between what DUP signed to and British are offering?

That advice to the DUP to treat the St Andrews Agreement as a victory would appear to be in doubt this morning. Jim Allister’s doubts on the deal (more later) takes up the front page of the Newsletter this morning, and Frank Millar’s piece in the Irish Times notes gaps opening up between the British understanding and that of party leader Ian Paisley.

DUP leader the Rev Ian Paisley yesterday confirmed his understanding – first reported in Saturday’s Irish Times – that he and Sinn F�in’s Martin McGuinness would be required to take the pledge before the Northern Assembly in order to be nominated first and deputy first ministers-designate on November 24th.

However, the Northern Ireland Office last night said it believed the ministerial pledge would not become “an issue” until the executive was nominated as per the proposed timetable on March 26th.

Suggesting either “confusion” within or “over-spinning” by the DUP, senior Whitehall sources said the new ministerial pledge would be enshrined in law by November 24th, but that neither Dr Paisley nor Mr McGuinness would be required to take it until the new executive was set to “go live”.

This is new territory for the DUP. They have excelled in the past in taking out the player/party in front. It remains to be seen if they can hold their nerve (and a sprawling coalition) together in face of these kinds of slippages of understanding that arise from doing a deal and then having to defend it publicly.

The problem they are likely face with this agreement is that it is even less tidy than the hated Belfast Agreement. Their advantage, ironically, is that this minor iteration leaves the vast and stable bulk of the Belfast Agreement intact. And that there is little scope for anyone to mount a sustainable attack on them from the right.

And none of the parties are likely to let policing remain outside the loop before the Assembly’s re-start.

, ,

  • the other one

    Ian jr on radio this morning.

    Interviewer: Have you got a commitment in writing on the timing of the oath

    jr: No Tony Blair gave us his word

    Way to go dupe’s

  • páid

    It’ll be all over by Christmas.

  • Pete Baker

    Mick

    According to the RTÉ report

    Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland, Mr Allister said he was looking for improvements in the St Andrews Agreement before he could endorse it.

  • today’s news
  • offer it up

    It looks like the DUP aren’t going to bring their grassroots (and perhaps some of their more senior elected representatives) with them on the St Andrews deal, so are back-tracking on commitments that they gave and seeking fresh concessions. Not going to happen, boys…

  • Paul P

    Long game.

  • Mark

    Allister’s personal shopping list.

    However, in considering the acceptability or otherwise of the Agreement we must also consider its negatives:

    • It anticipates admitting Sinn Fein to government after a very short testing period.

    • Very importantly, there is no default mechanism in the event that a Party departs from exclusively peaceful and democratic means. Thus if Sinn Fein/IRA robbed another Bank, there is no mechanism to expel them from government and so all the DUP could go is pull out of the Executive and bring devolution crashing down. Thus, as in the past, the innocent Parties suffer equally with the guilty. Yes, there are words in paragraph 11 about a determination that default by one party should not hinder political progress, but there is no substance. No penalty stipulated and no means of delivering a penalty.

    • The prospect of default by Sinn Fein is, as history since 1998 amply demonstrates, no mere academic concern. Sometimes we like to think that if only Sinn Fein would fulfil all the reasonable policing and democratic tests set, then they would be just like the rest of us, playing by the same democratic rules. It should be remembered however, that Sinn Fein is part of a revolutionary Marxist organisation and that such organisations thrive on creating and perpetuating political instability. Didn’t “Stormontgate” and the Northern Bank robbery – both calculated actions – do exactly that. Might such again not serve their purpose? They are hardly going into the government of a State they don’t believe in, and which they are avowed to subsume into an all-Ireland Republic, to bring it constitutional stability and prosperity! Thus, the absence of a mechanism to punish and exclude them if they default is a major weakness. Sinn Fein helped destroy gullible Trimble by persistently “bowling short” on its commitments. I suspect they’ll try it again.

    • Most far-reaching is fact that the St Andrews Agreement sets in motion a process which delivers Sinn Fein (and indeed all sizeable parties) into government in perpetuity with no democratic option of the electorate being able to evict any of them. It provides for Government, without an Opposition, because it maintains the absurd d’Hondt mechanism. This means the basic right of the electorate to evict a Party from government is withdrawn. So long as a Party secures a handful of Assembly seats they are guaranteed a place in government as of right and for ever. It is correct that under the Agreement the Institutional Review Committee of the Assembly could change this, but, frankly, nationalist parties are never likely to agree to do so. Thus, this Agreement would probably saddle us with anti-democratic d’Hondt and a mandatory executive for decades to come.

    • The Agreement commits HMG to introduce an Irish Language Act. Its terms are unspecified but it is likely to contribute towards sanitising Northern Ireland of its “Britishness”. It could impact on our education system. It is essential that the terms of the Bill are published well in advance of 10 November 2006.

    • There will be early legislation to open up all Civil Service posts to EU nationals, most relevantly Republic of Ireland citizens. At present a UK citizenship limitation exists in respect of top posts.

    • Special, but unspecified, steps are to be taken to promote employment and enhance re-integration of former prisoners. Will the relevance of criminal records be diminished in the employment field, including the Civil Service?

    (tail wags dog?)

  • pith

    Has Jim Allister just come back in where he left off?

  • Unionist Mindset

    Is this a solo run or authorised dissent?

    The thing here is that the DUP will have to agree to the central component of the GFA, namely obligatory powersharing, so as to avoid the historical negative experience of majoratarianism of nationalists.

    That I feel is something they aren’t ready for. No least because to accept it implies an implict acknowledgment that unionism doesn’t relate to full democracy.

  • Mark

    Allister also seems hurt by Sinn Fein’s European political group (GUE/NGL)
    organising a hearing on ending partions in Europe drawing on German, Cypriot and Irish experiences.

  • suil eile

    surprise surprise – we have no agreement then. Joint authority here we come….

  • I Wonder

    REmoved – Yellow Card.

  • Mick Fealty

    UM,

    That’s a very good point. Allister’s interview on MI this morning was measured and calm. One advantage is that the party continues the follow up debate on what this Agreement will enventually look like.

  • I Wonder

    “So long as a Party secures a handful of Assembly seats they are guaranteed a place in government as of right and for ever.”

    That’s democracy for ya!

    “Thus, this Agreement would probably saddle us with anti-democratic d’Hondt and a mandatory executive for decades to come.”

    And one which will be dominated by his own party!

  • Mick Fealty

    Mark,

    Could you join up the dots for us on that?

  • Mark

    Mick,

    What dots? Are the links not working?

    Sinn Féin are members of the confederal GUE/NGL group in Europe.

    GUE/NGL are organising a hearing in the European Parliament on partitions in Europe based on German, Cypriot and Irish experiences at which Sinn Fein will participate with others.

    Allister thinks this is somehow contrary to both the GFA and StAA and is going to expose this to the press. *mmm*

    Maybe he’ll expose the hypocrisy of refusing to discuss with Sinn Fein (who he calls Marxist) while regularly talking with fascists such as Le Pen’s French Front national, the Italian Lega Nord per l’indipendenza della Padania and other assorted misfits regarding his parliamentary speaking time, European finances and other issues?

    (I am not going to contribute to I Wonder’s rumours on Allister’s personal life though I’ve heard them too)

  • allisterwatch

    Allister is off the reservation and I do look forward to future musings from the legal eagle, one term MEP and future North Antrim MP.

    He’s a formidable politician and I wouldnt underestimate the significance of his public interjection.

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks for pointing out that blatant playing of the man Mark. Dealt with now.

    I’m just struggling to see how Alister is ‘hurt’ by tomorrow’s meeting? I thought you might be able to tease that out for us?

  • smcgiff

    Also reported on the Irish news is that the Irish government would support a regional tax rate for NI different to the rest of the UK.

    Probably the biggest concession of the whole agreement if it comes off.

  • T.Ruth

    Mr. P.Hain has continued his bully boy tactics about the implementation of plan B. Now it might be appropriate if he played a different tune and indicated that any party which refuses to sign up to support for Law and Order and policing or indeed power sharing will be excluded from the Assembly and the democratic majority will move forward with the agreed institutions intact.Why should devolved government be denied to 75 per cent of the community because Sinn Fein are unable to accept the PSNI as the legitimate policing authority?

  • George

    smcgiff,
    personally I think there’s as much chance of this as there is of me getting a job on the Parades Commission.

    I haven’t heard any UK big-hitters saying they are even considering reducing the corporate tax rate in NI.

    Gregory “the Republic got rich on EU money” Campbell seems to think this is a serious runner but then again this is the same Gregory who launched the ill-fated postcard campaign for all those southerners living in Northern Ireland who wanted to become British but weren’t able to.

    I wonder how many postcards he got?

  • kensei

    “Mr. P.Hain has continued his bully boy tactics about the implementation of plan B. Now it might be appropriate if he played a different tune and indicated that any party which refuses to sign up to support for Law and Order and policing or indeed power sharing will be excluded from the Assembly and the democratic majority will move forward with the agreed institutions intact.Why should devolved government be denied to 75 per cent of the community because Sinn Fein are unable to accept the PSNI as the legitimate policing authority?”

    Are you confused. There is what’s on the table, or there is Plan B. There is nothing else on the table, and Allister’s wish list isn’t about to change that.

    There is no government without Republicans here. deal with it, and move on.

  • inuit_goddess

    Well said Kensei, today’s events look like the DUP are in panic mode following Allister coming out in the Newsletter this morning and are now trying to row back from what they agreed to.

    They must have been aware of the policing pledge issue last Friday – they’re not stupid, they signed up to McGuinness as DFM without a policing pledge and now they’re trying to pull back from that pledge.

    Govt should put them in their place and take the sweeties like academic selection back off the table if the DUPs dont play ball.

  • Mark

    As the DUP have immediately failed to follow the timetable in the StAA:

    17 October: New Programme for Government Committee begins regular meetings to agree priorities for new Executive, with parties represented at leadership level.

    Is it back to the drawing board?

    How can anyone else be expected to follow the timetable when the DUP rider fell at the first fence?

    Why should others proceed when the DUP have pulled out of the game already?

  • George

    Mark,
    “How can anyone else be expected to follow the timetable when the DUP rider fell at the first fence?

    Why should others proceed when the DUP have pulled out of the game already? ”

    Because it is in the interests of the region and the island of Ireland to do so. Sinn Fein should simply push ahead with ratifying policing.

    Sinn Fein’s future lies not in hanging on to sacred cows. It makes no sense to do something that you accept needs to happen only when seen to be forced to do so by your political opponents.

  • lib2016

    Every unionist body which has tried to hold the line against progress has mysteriously crumbled, the loyalist paramilitaries, the ‘Loyal’ Orders, the UUP and anyone else you care to name.

    That big new installation we were all discussing yesterday is on the job and the DUP faces pressures it hasn’t yet dreamed of.

    The DUP will with their usual ill-grace do what their masters tell them, one way or another. Her ‘Ladyship’ didn’t get the title so that the Doc can play fast and loose with HM’s government.

  • Byzant

    “The thing here is that the DUP will have to agree to the central component of the GFA, namely obligatory powersharing, so as to avoid the historical negative experience of majoratarianism of nationalists.

    That I feel is something they aren’t ready for. No least because to accept it implies an implict acknowledgment that unionism doesn’t relate to full democracy.”

    Well if not doling out cabinet positions on the basis of party political shares and / or a sectarian headcount disqualifies an assembly or parliament from being democratic then I guess the only democratic state on earth is the Lebanon.