There was an interesting leader in the Irish Times yesterday which argued that Sinn Fein and the DUP are overly hung up on their respective sticking points (subs needed) re the St Andrews Agreement. It called for some (any?) form of leadership from two parties that have become known for a shared, and near debilitating, form of political caution:
Sinn Féin insists that Martin McGuinness cannot pre-empt a special ardfheis debate on policing by pledging support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the courts and the rule of law. Furthermore, it has demanded details concerning the devolution of policing and justice powers from Westminster and agreement on their implementation with the DUP. Eight years ago when he became a minister in the new Executive, Mr McGuinness undertook to support the rule of law, under a Royal Ulster Constabulary hated by him and his colleagues. The RUC has since been reformed and restructured. The IRA has been disarmed and stood down. Given this new dispensation and the increasing acceptability of the PSNI within both communities, one can only suspect that Sinn Féin’s stance is motivated by tactics and by a visceral desire to retain control within Catholic communities.
For its part, the Democratic Unionist Party will not share power with Sinn Féin unless that party is unequivocally committed to the support of law and order and the PSNI. And it is resisting the early devolution of policing powers from Westminster. It saw what happened to the Ulster Unionist Party and to David Trimble when Sinn Féin failed to deliver on a variety of assurances in the past. Ian Paisley is determined that, on this occasion, Sinn Féin will be forced to deliver comprehensively and “up front”.
However, it argues, the whole thing is coming over as a piece of specious grandstanding:
In spite of the refusal by Dr Paisley to engage in face-to-face negotiations with Gerry Adams, limited political progress has been made as the parties condition their supporters for possible change. Few republicans doubt that recognition of the PSNI and membership of the policing board will take place. And the consultation document published by the DUP – while not advocating powersharing with Sinn Féin – emphasises the negative consequences that would flow from its rejection.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty