In the Sunday Times, Liam Clark quotes a DUP source broadly agreeing with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s assessment of that party’s internal consultation. But notes that the approval rating of “nearer 90% than 80%” is conditional
The issues on which the DUP require progress include the creation of a mechanism by which Sinn Fein can be expelled from the executive if the IRA becomes active. One possibility is an enhanced role for the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). The DUP is also refusing to share power with Sinn Fein before it declares support for the police.
The DUP will also make its acceptance conditional on a range of less clearly defined issues, including an enhanced financial package, progress on loyal order parades, arrangements to move away from mandatory coalitions in the future and “further fairness and equality measure for the unionist community”.
Liam Clark also quotes DUP MP Sammy Wilson
“The question put to members was not ‘are you happy with the St Andrews agreement and do you think we should proceed into an executive government with Sinn Fein?’ We clearly need to get sufficient movement on the matters outstanding to take us to the next step and I don’t think that is certain. Most members recognised that we laid down conditions for Sinn Fein to meet. If they do meet them and it has been verified, then we will abide by the commitment that has been made in the manifesto.”
Sinn Féin’s declaration of support for the police remains an outstanding issue, with a party spokeswoman setting out the conditions for the calling of an Ard Fheis on the issue recently.
Those conditions might be met, at least in theory, but whether the mechanism for devolving powers over policing and justice, as set out in current legislation, would be changed to remove the requirement of a joint proposal by the First and Deputy First Ministers is another matter – that, ultimately, grants a veto to both holders of those offices. Even so, there seems zero chance of an Ard Fheis being held before all the parties are due to endorse, or not,, the St Andrews Agreement.. something’s ticking, it might be a clock
But having left grey areas to produce the St Andrews Agreement in the first place, filling in the detail will undoubtedly be as difficult as most people imagined.
It’s probably worth remembering what the various players positions were earlier in the year including, given the quotes from Sammy Wilson, the stated view of the US Envoy Mitchel Reiss speaking to the Irish Times’ Frank Millar in June
The worry for many people is that even if Sinn Féin resolves the policing issue, the DUP will simply find fresh obstacles. Is he saying that Sinn Féin signing up for policing should be seen as the last act, so to speak, of republican decommissioning?
Again, Mitchell Reiss says he doesn’t want to presume to know the DUP’s position, while his own seems clear: “I will say that I’ve been encouraged by the objective criteria they have set out for joining a government with Sinn Féin. The two issues Peter Robinson articulated when he visited the US in April were a commitment to supporting the police and an ending of IRA criminality. I think those are completely reasonable for the DUP to stake out – and again, if they should be met, then I can’t see any reason why the DUP wouldn’t be willing to stand up in Stormont immediately.”
As Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, as quoted in the Sunday Times, said
Bertie Ahern, the taoiseach, underlined the importance of Friday’s deadline at the Fianna Fail ard fheis yesterday. “We need to have agreed the legislation by Friday and then it has to be passed in two weeks,” he said. “This is a tight timeframe for what are complex issues. The parties are up for it, but there are a lot of things that need to be agreed yet. It is serious. We have six days to do it.”