“The process, at least, goes on.”

The Irish Times Frank Millar was among the first journalists to focus on the lack of detail in certain areas of the St Andrews Agreement, as noted here. In today’s paper he argues[subs req] that by honing in on the issue of policing, as noted in interviews with the various players in May, and with Mitchell Reiss in June, the DUP leader Ian Paisley “has established a bottom line which the Americans support and which neither the British nor Irish governments can surely expect him to abandon. Second – should Sinn Féin oblige – he has raised the prospect for a massive advance which, in the end, eluded Mr Trimble.”From the Irish Times article[subs req]

Those still doubtful about the pragmatic nature of Dr Paisley’s new position might also take instruction from the complaints laid against him by leading critics like Jim Allister and Robert McCartney. Both rightly discern that there is nothing in the St Andrews Agreement, for example, requiring the disbandment of the IRA. Dr Paisley’s conclusion apparently is that acceptance of the PSNI would mark the end of the ideological road for republicans and render the IRA “defunct” – though he will hardly welcome a reminder that this is the “big picture” view Mr Blair and Mr Ahern previously urged on Mr Trimble.

The question of the moment therefore might appear to be whether some compromise can be found to meet the November 24th “deadline” for nominating first and deputy first ministers – while allowing that Martin McGuinness will not pre-empt some future decision on policing by a special Sinn Féin ardfheis. However, that might be to miss the point that the highly conditional endorsements of St Andrews acceptable to both governments suggest all of these deadlines may in fact prove endlessly flexible.

Thursday night’s DUP statement certainly suggests it simply intends to leapfrog this one: “As Sinn Féin is not yet ready to take the decisive step forward on policing, the DUP will not be required to commit to any aspect of power-sharing in advance.”

It would even appear that that position could carry the DUP all the way into the planned March 7th election, since there is no indication yet that Sinn Féin is committed to take a final decision on policing before the planned electoral “endorsement” of the St Andrews deal – and seemingly nothing in it requiring them to do so. Thus we could be facing into yet another “election to process”, surely prompting questions as to why, and to whose benefit?

Veteran peace processors on the other hand suggest the publication of the new pledge of ministerial office in British legislation due next week will square the circle – leaving no one in any doubt as to what is to happen come March 26th and the scheduled date for appointing an Executive. Some DUP modernisers likewise regarded Monday’s statement by Sinn Féin’s ardchomhairle as simply “holding” to a position which the Adams leadership will change in its own good time.

Dr Paisley, by contrast, detected a possible step backwards in the statement combining a reiteration of the party’s long-declared position with rejection of any role for MI5 in “civic policing” of the kind defined in the St Andrews annex detailing the new arrangements for handling “national security” issues.

The two governments will trust Mr Adams bluffing, since he surely knows this is one fight with the British he cannot expect to win. That said, it would seem a curious way in which to prepare the republican constituency for arguably its most neuralgic decision of the entire peace process.

At this writing all that seems certain is that Mr Adams won’t be stretching himself to resolve this issue in accordance with London’s timetable – and that Dr Paisley may have to wait some time yet to discover if this generation of republican leaders ever will on his terms. The process, at least, goes on.

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  • IJP

    Pete

    You note Frank Millar was “one of the first journalists” to focus on the lack of detail at St Andrews.

    Is this not an indictment of journalists?

    The lack of detail is bloody obvious!

    I still haven’t quite worked out why the SDLP Deputy Leader was so keen to say “yes, yes, yes” to a deal which, frankly, we know next to nothing about.

  • Pete Baker

    IJP

    You missed the rest of that sentence, in particular “in certain areas” – it’s relevant to the rest of the post.

  • joeCanuck

    pete

    I think some people are being too pessimistic. Even the most diehard republican surely realises that there is no way we are going to move further along the road to normalization without full support for the police. your last post would even seem to indicate that; lines of communication have been opened and on the ground cooperation is taking place it seems. The police have come a long way from being a “force” to being truly a “service”
    for all communities.
    There is no way a large section of the population are ever again going to be second class citizens.
    Similarly, the majority know that their position will not again be threatened by force majure.
    We have come a long long hard way but the finishing line is in sight.

  • Billy

    Pete

    “has established a bottom line which the Americans support and which neither the British nor Irish governments can surely expect him to abandon. Second – should Sinn Féin oblige – he has raised the prospect for a massive advance which, in the end, eluded Mr Trimble.”

    This is only true to a point – If the “bottom line which the Americans support” is support for the police, that is true. I, as a moderate Nationalist and non Sinn Fein supporter believe that Sinn Fein should sign up to Policing.

    However, this shite that Dodds has been coming up with about no transfer of powers for a generation is NOT in the SAA nor is it supported by the Americans. The SAA talks about 2 years i.e. 2008.

    If the agreement is that the DUP can prevent the transfer of powers ad infinitem then that’s no deal (and is not supported by the Americans of anyone else).

    The DUP want rules to suspend any particular party i.e Sinn Fein without bringing down the assembly in the unlikely event of the IRA going back to terrorism.

    As a moderate nationalist, I want the same rules applied to the DUP if, in 2008, they are objecting to devolution of policing powers in the absence of any credible evidence other than their own intransigence.

  • joeCanuck

    On a related note, The Telly is reporting that 4 gangsters broke into a 77 year old pensioner’s house last night and broke his leg before ransacking the house, looking I suppose for his pension money. It took the poor man 15 hours to crawl to the front door to raise the alarm. I wonder who those that oppose policing expect to identify and bring these thugs to justice.

  • Yokel

    That violent house break. The area’s had a bit of regeneration & change but still, to the best of my knowledge is still fairly close knit. They are going to be well angry at this, more than angry and many of its older residents probably quite afraid as there are a fair number of older people in the area.

    Its a fucking disgrace of the first order.

  • aquifer

    “while allowing that Martin McGuinness will not pre-empt some future decision on policing by a special Sinn Féin ardfheis”

    Eh? sign up to serve in government or get lost.

    This Provo Paisley Provo Paisley you go first no you go first game is tedious and as you suggest JoeCanuck, more than a little unbelievable.

    I guess it keeps them centre stage for the assembly elections so long as the journos buy it, and they always do.

  • Pete Baker

    joe

    “Even the most diehard republican surely realises that there is no way we are going to move further along the road to normalization without full support for the police.”

    Frank Millar addresses this point in his final paragraphs above

    The two governments will trust Mr Adams bluffing, since he surely knows this is one fight with the British he cannot expect to win. That said, it would seem a curious way in which to prepare the republican constituency for arguably its most neuralgic decision of the entire peace process.

    At this writing all that seems certain is that Mr Adams won’t be stretching himself to resolve this issue in accordance with London’s timetable – and that Dr Paisley may have to wait some time yet to discover if this generation of republican leaders ever will on his terms.

  • I think we’re there bar the choreography and posturing, just both sides are playing hard to get.
    Maybe the New Year will bring something, or Spring.

  • Pete Baker

    24th November first, parci.

    There’s legislation to bypass..

    And there’s that Ard Fheis to call.

  • Mick, sorry to be off topic but could we have a thread on Dublin boxer Bernard Dunne, who I predicted on this very forum two months ago, will be a PROPER world champion.
    He slapped the ears off Esham Pickering tonight, and that is no mean feat. He is now up for a shot at a properly recognised world title. Benrard will be this country’s (north and south’s) first proper champ since Steve Collins,
    Magee, Corbett, McCullough and co have all came close, but with Bernard I think we have the real thing.

  • PubMan

    Maybe we should be talking about which burns victims signed SDLP nomination papers and canvassed for them?

    but who cares it’s only the stoops brightest young thing connected by family, government papers and support base to murder and vigilantism.

    Its not convenient to even raise it.

  • PubMan

    I’m glad to see the internal democracy of Sinn Féin is such an issue over this British/irish government proposal.

    The UUP and SDLP don’t get considered.

    DUP members don’t get an oppotunity to vote while paying for suppliments in papers and having the chance to chat in Orange Halls.

    Sinn Féin will consider the proposal and only alter position based on a consultation, conference and vote.

    Democrats? The rest of you don’t even pretend to bother.

  • Comrade Stalin

    On a related note, The Telly is reporting that 4 gangsters broke into a 77 year old pensioner’s house last night and broke his leg before ransacking the house, looking I suppose for his pension money. It took the poor man 15 hours to crawl to the front door to raise the alarm. I wonder who those that oppose policing expect to identify and bring these thugs to justice.

    Joe,

    Eloquently put and I agree with the sentiment. It’s quite right to say that the amateur policing “alternatives” cannot hope to administer effective justice in this, or in most other, situations.

    However, it’s important that in our efforts to persuade people to give their full support to the police, we do not oversell things. I think many police officers do a great job, but they cannot be everywhere at the same time. There will always be crime, and there will always be particularly despicable crimes (such as the above) which, for one reason or another, the police are unable to solve.

  • IJP

    Pete

    Hadn’t missed it, but indeed had read it differently.

    Actually I think my point stands, though – Millar was the first journo (at least in the press) to do any real analysis.

    A more classic example was the BelTel recently:
    Morning edition: “£50 bn!!!”
    Afternoon edition: “Er, it’s not actually £50 bn…”

    Probably help, to be fair, if some of their headline writers actually listened to what sensible journos like McAdam are telling them.