On target dates and commitments – or deadlines and conditions

The Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Bill passed its Commons stages without amendment last night – you can read the full transcript here – it goes to the Lords today. One area of focus in the debate was the timing of both Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis on policing, and the potential devolution of powers on justice and policing. Comments by the Secretary of State for Wales etc, Peter Hain, prompted this Irish Times Breaking News headline, “North to get policing powers in 2008 – Hain”, but at the risk of being included in what Peter Hain labelled as the “marauding media” [*ahem* – Ed] his, reported, claim that the St Andrews Agreement included “a clear commitment and a target of May 2008 for the devolution of policing and justice powers” deserves closer inspection.The debate focussed, at least in part, on when exactly Sinn Féin would hold their Ard Fheis and whether an election will be held without policing being publicly endorsed by the party..

From the debate in the Commons

Mr. Hain: I have not, but it is absolutely apparent and crystal clear to me that, to fulfil the terms of this legislation and to fulfil the implementation of the St. Andrews agreement, Sinn Fein has made it clear that it needs an ard fheis to support it in the way forward. That ard fheis will need to be called at the appropriate time.

Mr. Donaldson: When?

Mr. Hain: It is a matter for Sinn Fein; but of course, it is important that Sinn Fein makes its position clear.

This legislation provides the mechanism to go forward. The twin pillars of power sharing and the rule of law are enshrined in the pledge of office that all Ministers must take on 26 March, to take office. The pledge of office requires all Ministers to

“promote the interests of the whole community represented in the Northern Ireland Assembly towards the goal of a shared future”.

Politicians everywhere, particularly those who aspire to govern, are there not just to represent and work for those who voted for them and loaned them their mandate but for those who did not.

Politicians everywhere, particularly those who aspire to govern, are there not just to represent and work for those who voted for them and loaned them their mandate but for those who did not.

In a society that has been as bitterly divided as Northern Ireland, politicians who have been entrusted with a mandate that will give them access to power have an even greater obligation to govern for all and not just for their own. The pledge requires all Ministers to

“participate fully in the Executive Committee, the North-South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council”.

If devolution is to deliver good government, all the institutions of government must function effectively. Anything less than a full commitment to that will sell everyone in Northern Ireland short. The pledge of office also requires Ministers to

“observe the joint nature of the offices of First Minister and deputy First Minister”.

Those are fundamental tenets of power sharing, which go well beyond the symbolism—important as that is—of two different political traditions working together in equality without sacrificing either principle or integrity.

On support for the rule of law, the pledge of office, as enshrined in the Bill, could not be clearer. All Ministers will

“uphold the rule of law based as it is on the fundamental principles of fairness, impartiality and democratic accountability, including support for policing and the courts as set out in paragraph 6 of the St. Andrews Agreement”.

Let me remind the House what paragraph 6, and clause 7(2) of the Bill, says about support for law and order:

“We believe that the essential elements of support for law and order include endorsing fully the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the criminal justice system, actively encouraging everyone in the community to co-operate fully with the PSNI in tackling crime in all areas and actively supporting all the policing and criminal justice institutions, including the Policing Board”.

I recognise that the issue of policing has been contentious ever since Northern Ireland came into being, and still more so during the conflict, but we are in a very different and much better place now.

And later in the debate, in response to a question from Nigel Doods, Peter Hain stated

21 Nov 2006 : Column 484

Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman asked me about the Sinn Fein position on policing. The Bill is crystal clear—it could not be clearer—about the necessity for Sinn Fein to sign up to all the specifics of policing spelled out in paragraph 6 of the St. Andrews agreement and enshrined in clause 7. The Bill is the first measure to do that. I would have thought that he would give credit for that. In my view, Sinn Fein needs to call an ard fheis sooner rather than later. I shall not get into discussing specific weeks or days, because that would not be helpful. The end process is that Sinn Fein candidates who hope to be Ministers must accept the pledge of office, as spelled out in clause 7.[added emphasis]

The timing of the Ard Fheis has potential implications for the election on March 7, a situation that the Irish Times’ Frank Millar had speculated on

Thursday night’s DUP statement [their ‘maybe’ response] 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?

Also from last night’s debate, Peter Hain’s comments on the media are, in effect, little more than an attempt to bully journalists into not asking awkward or difficult questions of government or parties

I can well understand why the parties are edging forward with considerable caution and I can quite see why feelings are fragile, why anxious party members worry about what their leaders may have accepted and why a marauding media picks away at the fragilities. The easy option—for politicians and, of course, for journalists, too—is to prise open the detail of understandings and to unnerve either or both sides with negatives. The harder option is to stick with it, to show courage and fortitude, and say that the positives outweigh the negatives by a million miles. In Northern Ireland’s politics, it has always been easier to say no, always harder to say yes.[added emphasis]

And no wonder, when his interpretation of what is happening veers between fudging one area which had been rock-solid… while, at the same time, presenting actual fudge as rock-solid.

The Irish Times carried his comments on the commitment, and target date of May 2008

Which are recorded in Hansard

The St. Andrews agreement also included a clear commitment, and a target of May 2008, for the devolution of policing and justice powers to the restored Executive. We expect all concerned to take that target seriously. Indeed, the Bill requires the Assembly to report to the Secretary of State before 27 March 2008 on progress towards the devolution of policing and justice powers. I want to make it clear that, once policing and justice is devolved, there is nothing in the pledge that would remove or unreasonably constrain any future Minister of policing and justice from making legitimate criticism of the police. After all, proper accountability was central to the Good Friday agreement’s vision for new policing arrangements in Northern Ireland and was a core element of the Patten report’s recommendations. Proper accountability, which can sometimes include constructive criticism, is essential in delivering the police service that Northern Ireland deserves. There is a world of difference between that and a failure to support Northern Ireland policing and justice institutions.”[added emphasis]

The “clear commitmment” in the St Andrews Agreement[pdf file]

7. Discussions on the devolution of policing and justice have progressed well in the Preparation for Government Committee. The Governments have requested the
parties to continue these discussions so as to agree the necessary administrative arrangements to create a new policing and justice department. It is our view that implementation of the agreement published today should be sufficient to build the community confidence necessary for the Assembly to request the devolution of criminal justice and policing from the British Government by May 2008.[added emphasis]

And while the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Bill does require a restored assembly to report back to the Secretary of State

18 Report on progress towards devolution of policing and justice matters

(1) The Northern Ireland Assembly must make a report to the Secretary of State before 27 March 2008—
(a) as to the preparations that the Assembly has made, and intends to make, having regard to paragraph 7 of the St Andrews Agreement, for or in connection with policing and justice matters ceasing to be reserved matters;
(b) as to which matters are likely to be the subject of any request under section 4(2A) of the 1998 Act that policing and justice matters should cease to be reserved matters;
(c) containing an assessment of whether the Assembly is likely to make such a request before 1 May 2008.

The only action required by the Secretary of State is to

(2) The Secretary of State must lay a copy of the report before each House of Parliament

As I’ve said before, the Secretary of State may set a target date, and may hope to achieve that date, but the current mechanism for devolving powers on policing and justice already set out, in the NI (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, grants both holders of the offices of First and Deputy First Ministers a veto on whether that goes ahead.

Unless the government is now going to say that, in circumstances where one of the parties holding those offices do not agree that the confidence within the community exists for the devolving of those powers by March 2008 – they are then going to force through devolving powers on policing and justice by May 2008 whatever happens between now and then, the target date remains only a target date and not a commitment.

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  • joeCanuck

    excellent posting Pete.

  • Ambiguous and clear as mud,
    nothing changes !!

  • Ian

    Mark Devenport’s recent analysis (“Big picture trumps tough talking”) on the BBC website pointed to a possible way out of the chicken-and-egg situation regarding the devolution of policing and justice powers.

    To quote:

    “the precise model of any policing and justice ministry is inextricably linked to when such a department might come into existence.”

    and:

    “The political realities make it likely that any future minister (or ministers) subjected to cross-community vote would be from the centre ground than either of the two dominant parties.”

    Which seems to be suggesting that, assuming the DUP and SF get the FM/DFM posts, the UUP and SDLP could get the Justice & Policing ministries (either jointly or individually).

    That may be a permutation that meets the “community confidence” threshold, thus allowing for an EARLIER transfer of powers. It would also provide for a more comprehensive degree of power-sharing.

    I wonder what the “two dominant parties” would make of the suggestion?

    I’d be interested to hear the views of SF supporters here on Slugger. If the SDLP had the Policing portfolio, that would appear to tick the boxes of removal of powers from British control and accountability of the police service to (wider) nationalism. Could SF run with that – maybe if the arrangement is time-limited, and the P&J ministries revert to d’Hont distribution after the 2011 or 2015 elections? Surely it would be a better arrangement than continued direct rule ministerial control of policing for a ‘political lifetime’?

    And what do DUP supporters think? Would the UUP and SDLP jointly running the policing and justice portfolio command sufficient “community confidence” to allow for an earlier devolution of those powers, thus removing an excuse for SF to delay their ard fheis?

    I suspect the sticking point for the DUP would be the fact that, in order to keep SF’s mitts off the Policing Ministry, the DUP would have to concede the Justice post to the UUP. That would give Empey & co a leg-up just when Paisley is hoping to finish them off.

    After all, despite the DUP’s slogan “Smash Sinn Fein”, the last few years have appeared to demonstrate that Paisley’s greatest ambition is to smash the UUP.

  • joeCanuck

    Ian

    While your idea does have merit, I’m not sure how you could legislate such a thing. Perhaps it could be done as an informal agreement among the players; but that would require a great deal of trust, something which is sorely lacking at present.

  • Ian

    Joe,

    I agree it’s difficult to legislate for, not least because it’s based on the current relative party strengths in the Assembly and there’s an (unneccesary) election coming up.

    But on the issue you raise of trust, I see it as a way round the current gaping lack of trust – i.e. DUP don’t trust SF with a policing/justice ministry, SF don’t trust the British Government or solely Unionist minister(s) to hold the same powers.

    Allowing for the centrist parties to share P&J powers would be a way to square the circle and ultimately bypass the “who jumps first?” situation holding up the whole process.

    I repeat the question – surely it must be more acceptable to SF to see the PSNI directly accountable to SDLP and UUP ministers (acting jointly or rotating P&J portfolios), than to see the PSNI continue to be answerable only to locally unelected, direct rule minsters for the foreseeable future?

    Why have the SDLP or UUP apparently not come up with this suggestion?

  • Ian

    And if SF support the idea in principle, that puts the onus on the DUP to say, could they countenance a role for the SDLP in a policing or justice ministry?

    If not, that calls into question their commitment to power-sharing and equality with nationalism.

    If the consistently anti-violence and pro-rule-of-law SDLP can’t be trusted with such a position, it affirms nationalists’ suspicions that the PSNI is considered by Unionists to be ‘their’ police force.

  • joeCanuck

    Ian

    I’m still not sure wherein the problem lies.
    SF want policing responsibility to be devolved and that’s understandable. The DUP don’t want SF to be the responsible minister and that’s understandable too.
    However, as I understand the D’Hondt process (and if I’m wrong I’ll soon be corrected), The party with the largest number of seats gets first pick at any ministry. Assuming that a unionist party occupies that spot, they can always pick P&J first. If a nationalist/republican party has the most seats, then that’s democracy for you.

  • Pete Baker

    Ian

    I know you like that quote from Mark Devenport, as I recall you’ve posted it in previous thread.

    But it’s not strictly accurate and/or applicable here.

    The only place that the timing and the model are inextricably linked is within a Sinn Féin policy statement – perhaps that’s what Mark Devenport was referring to?

    But that policy statement is what SF say prevents any of their potential ministers from taking the pledge of office.

    Which they will have to do on March 26th if an executive is to be formed then.

    That’s a sticking point for SF – not for any other party.

    The legislation, which sets out the mechanism for devolving those powers, provides for the final decisions on the model of the ministry being made after the first and deputy first ministers jointly propose to the assembly that the powers should be devolved – and the assembly agrees.

    In the meantime there is the issue of whether SF will change that policy ahead of the March 7th election.

  • Ian

    Pete,

    I did post a less refined version of my post near the bottom of an earlier thread where it failed to elicit a response. I thought it bore repeating – at least one person sees “some merit” in it.

    I think what Devenport was saying is that the REALPOLITIC means that the issues are inextricably linked, although I would have actually put it the opposite way round, i.e.

    “the timing of when a policing and justice ministry might come into existence is inextricably linked to the precise model of any policing and justice ministry.”

    i.e. the DUP are more likely to yield ground on an early devolution of P&J powers if a model can be agreed that keeps SF’s hands off for the forseeable future, but SF won’t agree to that if it means reverting to a pre-1972 type situation with Unionists exclusively controlling the PSNI. Hence the suggestion that the UUP/SDLP jointly get the post(s).

    Joe,

    The legislation allows for several options for appointing the policing and justice minister(s) – by d’Hont, by cross-community vote, one minister or two, or a senior and junior minister rotating the post(s). Maximum flexibility was built in so that IF AND WHEN the parties agree on a model in negotiations, then it can be implemented quickly without the need for primary legislation.

    What I’m suggesting falls under the cross-community vote option (with other ministries to be appointed by d’Hont afterwards but taking into account the appointed P&J minister(s) when calculating the d’Hont formula). But it obviously has to be agreed by the parties in order for it to come into effect.

    I’m simply flagging up the benefits of one particular model, in the hope of determining the attitude of DUP and Sinn Fein supporters to the suggestion. If Sinn Fein saw it as an improvement on the status quo (Brits in charge of the PSNI till Kingdom come), and the DUP took it as an opportunity to prove that it’s only paramilitary-affiliated nationalists that they have a problem sharing power with, then it COULD be a way through the current morass. (UUP and SDLP are hardly likely to object to the idea of their obtaining the P&J portfolios.)

    Pete,

    “The legislation … provides for the final decisions on the model of the ministry being made after the FM/DFM jointly propose …”

    I realise that the actual devolution of powers will not occur under the quadruple lock until the FM/DFm start the ball rolling, but there’s nothing in the legislation that stops the parties from AGREEING NOW what form the eventual ministry will take. They’ve already partially agreed, in the PfG over the summer, that one ministry rather than two separate ministries should be set up in the event that devolution occurs.

    The DUP have made great play of the fact that their mandate has to be respected, hence the change to the institutions in the current Bill. However, SF also have a substantial mandate not to move on policing until a model and date for devolution of P&J powers has been agreed.

    Need it come down to a playground argument over “My mandate is bigger than your mandate”, or can’t the parties come up with some imaginative solutions to square the circle? Which is what I’m trying to facilitate with my suggestion.

    In summary, it all comes down to negotiation between the parties, which is precisely what the PfG committee is for. It would help, of course, if DUP would negotiate directly with SF.

  • Pete Baker

    Ian

    The immediate problem that I see with your suggestion is that it’s yet another fudge.

    It also, as joe pointed out, is unworkable unless legislation is added to allow the government to allocate ministries within a devolved assembly.

    And it requires SF to accept that the problem lies with their unfitness to hold the office of a Minister for Justice – good luck with both of those.

    And it doesn’t, despite the correct point that the parties could describe which model of ministry they want, address the attempt by Peter Hain to describe the current situation on devolving those powers as a commitment, rather than a target.

    I don’t mind speculation, but it’s better, and more productiove in the long run, to deal with the reality of the situation.

    Btw, the realpolitik, as you put it, is described more accurately in Liam Clarke’s recent Sunday Times article

  • Ian

    Pete,

    To deal first with a couple of your technical points:

    One option allowed for by the legislation is for the P&J ministers to be allocated by cross-community vote.

    SF’s core requirement before their ard fheis is that they have negotiated a transfer of powers from the British Government to local ministers with nationalists having an input. (Again, an improvement on both the status quo and on the pre-1972 majority mis-rule arrangements.) If neither SF nor the DUP occupy the posts, that doesn’t paint SF as being solely unfit. In fact, it can be spun as a more comprehensive form of power-sharing.

    As for you request for me to “deal with the reality of the situation” – the reality of the situation is that there hasn’t yet been an agreement struck between the local parties, only between Blair & Ahern.

    Until an agreement is struck between the local parties, there will not be a power-sharing administration.

    The reality is that negotiations are ongoing between the parties, in the PfG committee.

    The suggestion to devolve the P&J ministries to the UUP and SDLP could happen IF the four main parties agreed it is the best way forward.

    Maybe they won’t, but we don’t yet know their response to the option. All we know is that they haven’t yet come up with any option that they all agree on. And without agreement, the reality is that the arguments will continue to go round in circles until the 26th of March.

    The DUP need to decide what they’re trying to achieve.

    Are they trying to win the battle over who gets the blame when the process ultimately hits the brick wall at the end of the road? (They won’t lose the blame battle but they won’t win either – they’ve already breached some of the dates in the StAA. It’ll be a plague on both your houses, but remember SF stand to do least worst out of the Plan B scenario.)

    Or are they trying to achieve their stated aim of stable devolution based on the rule of law*, in which case they should be striving to meet the concerns of their opponents without compromising on their key requirements. And it is my conviction that my suggested course of action does not compromise on their key requirement of ‘community confidence’ prior to devolution of P&J matters, unless they are saying that the SDLP can’t be trusted with such (which would be akin to “don’t want a Fenian about the place”, and surely they don’t think that?)

    * (except with respect to certain Parades Commission determinations, of course!)

  • Pete Baker

    Ian

    I get the feeling that we’re the ones going round in circles..

    The reality, as it exists, is the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act and it’s description of the mechanism for devolving powers on policing and justice – it begins with the First and Deputy First Ministers in agreement on when confidence exists to devolve powers on policing and justice.

    As I said in the original post

    Unless the government is now going to say that, in circumstances where one of the parties holding those offices do not agree that the confidence within the community exists for the devolving of those powers by March 2008 – they are then going to force through devolving powers on policing and justice by May 2008 whatever happens between now and then, the target date remains only a target date and not a commitment.

    Wishful thinking and speculation about parties’ motives aside, SF say they have a problem with the current legislation on that mechanism. Nothing that Hain has said, or is contained within the latest legislation emerging from St Andrews, changes that.

    To go back to one of the original points.. March 7th is supposed to be the election date..

  • Ian

    “SF say they have a problem with the current legislation on that mechanism. Nothing that Hain has said, or is contained within the latest legislation emerging from St Andrews, changes that.”

    The problem that SF have with the mechanism is precisely that it requires the DUP to agree to devolution of policing and justice powers. Which is one of the issues that the current negotiations is going to have to nail down.

    The DUP aren’t the only party that see the Friday 13th Agreement as ‘unfinished business’, ‘more done yet more still to do’.

    Until they agree a model and timing of devolution of P&J, there won’t be devolution of anything, because SF won’t call the Ard Fheis, therefore the DUP won’t nominate Ministers – and we’re back to the apparent “Who Jumps First?” scenario as detailed on Slugger on numerous occasions.

    In actual fact, it’s not really a question of “Who Jumps First?”. Sinn Fein seem to be in the position of saying “We’ll Jump First” (i.e. call the Ard Fheis and sign up for policing), provided they can be sure that the DUP will follow (i.e. facilitate devolution of P&J). The problem is, the DUP refuse to give any indication to that effect, not even within a 2 year timescale.

    The reason for that refusal on the part of the DUP, they claim, is because of a lack of faith in Sinn Fein’s bona fides at this stage.

    So I’m asking, would the DUP and SF agree to the SDLP and UUP taking the portfolios for a couple of Assembly lifetimes, as opposed to the likely alternative REALITY of 20 years of Plan B/joint stewardship? If the answers no, do you have a better idea to square the circle?

    Curiously, my ‘security word’ for this post is ‘probably59’. I reckon if they can’t agree to start power-sharing by next March, it’ll probably be 2059 before they get round to it!

  • Pete Baker

    “Until they agree a model and timing of devolution of P&J, there won’t be devolution of anything, because SF won’t call the Ard Fheis, therefore the DUP won’t nominate Ministers”

    Again you fall back to a SF policy statement.. as if that over-rides the actual current legislation..

    The title of the post highlights the difference between – “target dates and commitments – or deadlines and conditions”

    It’s there in the detail of the debate.

    The question you’re avoiding is which is the more important deadline – the commitment.. or the conditions.

  • Ian

    Pete,

    Legislation is supposed to implement agreement, not vice versa.

    Whether further legislation is required when the DUP and SF come to an agreement, or whether they can proceed on an agreed basis within the existing legislation, is yet to be seen.

    However, the DUP and Sinn Fein HAVEN’T come to an agreement yet. I think where we’re at cross-purposes is that your arguments are based on the premise that they are somehow bound by an ‘agreement’ that was only agreed between the British and Irish Governments.

    The problem is that neither the DUP nor Sinn Fein seem to regard themselves as bound by the Friday the 13th Agreement. Which is why 26th March will come and go and the circle will remain unsquared.

    Unless of course the DUP and SF DO reach an agreement. Which is unlikely, and would require:

    (1) imaginative thinking (hence my suggestion);
    and
    (2) preferably, direct negotiations between the two.

  • Pete Baker

    Actually, legislation implements the democratic will of the people in a jurisdiction, as voted for by their representatives.

    There are, though, basics for a civilised society – which have been highlighted here – including support for the rule of law.. but you’ll have to check the archives for the detail.

  • Ian

    “There are, though, basics for a civilised society – which have been highlighted here – including support for the rule of law.. ”

    ..which by any normal standards would include condemning loyalist gunmen who fired shots at the police in support of besashed bowlerhatted loyal order members swinging swords at same police. But I don’t want to re-hash the arguments about Unionism’s hypocrisy viz a vis the rule of law.

    Going back to my point about the lack of agreement to date. DUP and SF have signed up to two different things (both different to each other’s interpretation, and each different to the two governments’ agreed position).

    The two sides’ “qualified intentions to proceed” contain mutually exclusive conditions/ preconditions. It could be said that the DUP have opted for ‘St Andrews Plus’ (which sounds like a hangover remedy, except they mostly don’t drink do they?), whilst SF have gone for ‘St Andrews Minus’.

    Perhaps the wisdom of Hain’s decision not to dissolve the Assembly in the absence of an Agreement between DUP and SF, should be called into question.

    But rightly or wrongly, Hain has decided to proceed and extended the deadline until March, on the basis that he believes the gap between the two parties is narrow enough to be bridged.

    Sinn Fein appear willing to try to reach across that gap, but the task is made harder by the DUP’s refusal to negotiate directly with them.

    The DUP on the other hand have reverted to the default position of trying to win the blame game, and have lost sight of the fact that they are supposed to be trying to negotiate an AGREEMENT. Either that or they are still in denial about who they need to be negotiating with i.e. those with whom they ultimately will have to share power.

    None of this was remotely helped by the spin that Blair and Ahern put on the St Andrews position paper. By calling it the ‘Agreement’ they tried to paper over the cracks, thereby given rise to the misconception that an ‘agreement’ has been reached between the local parties, thereby making it harder to actually achieve one.

    Perhaps it would be more productive for Blair, Ahern, and their ministers to clear off and leave the parties to shoulder the responsibility of negotiating with each other properly.

  • Pete Baker

    “..which by any normal standards would include condemning loyalist gunmen..”

    Archive? No honestly, check the archive.

    “Sinn Fein appear willing to try to reach across that gap, but the task is made harder by the DUP’s refusal to negotiate directly with them. ”

    Yeah, right.. It’s always the other one..

    Look, Ian.. I’ve been in and out of this particular problem and I have my view.. you have your view… it’s now about wether the two main parties can co-incide in their view… which ultimately mean SF getting support for policing past their ard fheis.

  • Yokel

    Ah jesus, too complicated.

    Anyway the Lord himself will be gone soon…

  • Ian

    Pete,

    But in order for SF to get support for policing past their ard fheis, they need a date and mode for devolution of policing. That is what they are mandated to achieve.

    The DUP have been banging on about the need for changes to the institutions because of their mandate, but the quid pro quo is that they have to meet key requirements of their opponents. That’s how negotiations are supposed to work!

    Gerry Adams made a salient point about the DUP recently, when he said that the DUP need to be disabused of their fanciful notion of what negotiations entail, namely that the DUP make a list of demands and the rest of the parties all genuflect before them.

  • GrassyNoel

    OK yeah, we get the point…’blah blah blah, no Fenians about the place, blah blah blah’ etc.

    DUP reservations me arse. If it was the SDLP negotiating this agreement we’d still be hearing the same old shite.