“Sinn Féin hasn’t signed up to policing, it hasn’t even called an ardfheis on policing, and it appears unable to sign a pledge to support the police and law and order so that Martin McGuinness can become Deputy First Minister designate. These are bottom line issues for us. So how therefore can November 24th be met?”
Cue Dermot Ahern:
…when pressed, Mr Ahern declined to say that the British/Irish alternative “Plan B” would be put into immediate effect should the parties fail to designate First and Deputy First Ministers by the appointed date. At the same time, Whitehall sources confirmed “the implication” of the St Andrews Agreement was that the result of non-designation would be “dissolution” of the Stormont Assembly and insisted November 24th “is a step that needs to be gone through” – before adding that it was “too soon to know” what would happen if it was not.
Asked if the St Andrews Agreement “absolutely” required designation of First and Deputy First Ministers by November 24th, Mr Ahern said: “We’ve indicated that that would be the case and it’s the expectation that that will happen.” Pressed as to what would happen if the November 24th deadline was not met, Mr Ahern replied: “We’ll obviously have to cross that bridge when we come to it . . . The two governments have said that if we fall at any hurdle between now and March 26th [the date for an Executive “going live”] then we go back to Plan B, which is still there and still being worked on.”
The effort for now seems to be on getting this particularly lumpy camel through this particularly small needle’s eye. A so our game of political chicken continues.
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