“fig leaf to camouflage the almost irreconcilable elements at work”

Not only has the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Bill been passed without amendment through the House of Lords but, within 30 minutes of that happening, it also received Royal Assent.. just as well it wasn’t contentious then..As the BBC report notes

Lord Trimble, former Ulster Unionist leader, said there was an agreement between Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, but no-one else.

“The government is proceeding on optimistic assumptions which are not likely to be fulfilled,” he cautioned.

For the Liberal Democrats, Lord Smith of Clifton called the Bill a “fig leaf to camouflage the almost irreconcilable elements at work”.

He added: “Whether it will provide a foundation for operating a representative and democratic system of devolved government as all people of goodwill would wish is extremely doubtful.”

Lord Glentoran, for the Conservatives, said there had to be “delivery” from Sinn Fein, “no more ambiguity, no more conditions, no more promises of action that don’t happen”.

Northern Ireland Minister Lord Rooker called for a period of prolonged stability to help the devolution process and insisted problems could be overcome if “everyone delivers on their commitments”.

Former Conservative Cabinet minister Lord Tebbit said: “This Bill is another stage in the relentless march of Sinn Fein-IRA into power in Northern Ireland – power which has been won by bombs and bullets because it couldn’t be won by the ballot box alone.”

Not that our very own Secretary of State’s other difficulties will come into play at any point..

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  • joeCanuck

    Not to be pedantic Pete.
    But he’s not our “very own”. You forget that we share him with some of our friends across the water.

  • Pete Baker

    You noticed that, joe ;o)

  • Rubicon

    Well – we’re still a little short on 7 lords a leaping. We’ve a few has beens already but does anyone wonder … well … perhaps not.

    Have fun counting lords – it seems as useful a task as might be considered achievable by the brain dead.

    For those still breathing, the speed of Royal assent is hardly an argument. Pete – are you complaining that Liz 2 is too efficient?

    The problem still remains Pete and this thread hasn’t moved towards any engagement with the impasse.

    The Bill is now an Act. Did you really think it would be otherwise?

    You have a choice – it may not be the options you’d prefer – but – hey – do you think you are alone?

    You haven’t done yourself much justice in this thread – despite the informed debates you’ve initiated many times on criminal justice. I suspect the house of cards will come down on the basis of what you’ve already identified.

    But – you too are entitled to your politial opinion. Good luck to you and those that sail with you.

    Bon voyage!

  • Pete Baker

    Rubicon

    You mis-understand, I think.

    There is no argument presented in the post.. only statements of fact.

  • Rubicon

    Of course Pete – no argument at all. Isn’t that what you posted? A thread to bring us all together on the basis of …

    Jesus wept! Selective statements form the basis of spin. I’m not for a moment ignoring your ability to recognise the situation and bring relevant evidence to bear. But …

    On this, you are identifying problems with a system that nationalists could only sit back and wonder at – if they were thick!

    But – it’s SF crminality that causes you concern. It does me too – it does today and will tomorrow.

    There’s a long time between now and … (choose your date, choose your Commissioner, choose … “demand” and “analyse”. Prim your moustache, clear your teath while telling yourself you’ve the answer. It looks like Nigel will have to go – for …

  • Pete Baker

    Rubicon

    You’re reading far more into the post than actually exists. The quotes come from the report.

    But I don’t do threads to bring us together..

    I have linked what’s available in terms of reports.. try the [temporary] online links here and here for more detail – also available via my original link.

  • Rubicon

    Thanks for the links Pete – I didn’t need them. You choose your quotes but unionist politics does not pay attention to what’s happening in the Lords. If they did, would the UUP have signed up with the PUP?

    Whatever about UUP incompetence – you selected the quote. Had a constitutional issue been raised it may have been worth listening to – instead you quote old farts who are still in Mallon’s slow-learners group.

    I’d like to help – what would you suggest as a reasonable adjustment to old bigots? How can Lord Tebbit be helped recognise SF’s mandate? Is it a worthwhile endeavour? What will his ‘buy-in’ deliver?

    We are at a crucial stage in determining the future for NI. Can Irish ‘republicanism’ accept the PSNI etc etc? Can unionists accept a fenian holding a policeman to account?

    Pete – you don’t need to go to a bereaved Westminster politician to find the answers. Either NI decides how it will be governed – or others will.

    Isn’t that the point?

  • abucs

    You have to hand it to Her Majesty.
    She’s on the ball.

  • Pete Baker

    Rubicon

    It was a short notice post.. I provided the links.. and added the quotes from the BBC report – without [too much] comment.

    Don’t read too much into it at this stage.

  • Alan

    Looks like it’s over to you, Messrs Adams and Paisley.

    I think it’s about time for another deadline.

    We need big promises from the two gentlemen that they will (1) allow their names to go forward as FM and DFM, (2) speak to one another (3) allow one another to spend public money, (4)visit one another’s offices and (5)occasionally be caught out smiling when the other cracks a wee joke.

    And, as it is a deadline, we need a date. So how’s about a week before the election, so that we don’t get an artificial result with people voting “to encourage the extreme parties to make the leap.”

  • aquifer

    Ahh the slap of firm government.

    Peter has the measure of these pretend politicians.
    Playing ethnic poker with people’s lives for chips.

    He has called the bluff of the ethnic outbidders.

    We’ll have an Executive or he’ll empty their pockets and throw them out on the street.

  • Butterknife

    I notice that Lord Tebbit still refers to Sinn Fein as SF/IRA. He has that right given his personal grief but i also noticed that Nigel Dodds OBE MP MLA now makes a distinction:

    Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North) (DUP): The Secretary of State mentioned Friday 24 November and said that the DUP and Sinn Fein would have to indicate who their nominees would be. What form is that indication to take? What happens if either party does not make that indication?

    So much for the cause!!!!!!!!!! Disgusting.

  • Butterknife

    Sorry about the buggy tag above.

  • Philip

    If the omission of IRA was intentional by Dodds after the party name of Sinn Fein, and I can only assume it was, for an Oxbridge trained barrister knows or ought to know how vital the omission of a single comma is vis-à-vis the literal rule then I presume the word ‘indication’ was carefully selected to. This infers that a nod or a wink is enough without anyone actually putting their heads on the chopping block as it were – this is significant given the theocratic nature of the DUP. A lot of their supporters need reprogramming to this new podogram and this may be another reason: i.e. the need for marketing amongst the DUP flock.
    Alternatively it gives the President (sic) of Northern Ireland and Wales ‘wiggle’ room for continuing the Assembly into his new job thus allowing for a success story under the new PM (whomever it may be).

  • Truth and Justice

    One notes Lady Hermon did not oppose it!

  • Philip

    That is some comebackTruth and Justice! Even if Lady Hermon did oppose it the DUP would still have the NET YES votes needed. But then again why should she – it is the beta version of GFA #2 (mind you even Microsoft would be ashamed to release it).

  • the other one

    tomorrow the big man will take a leap of faith and then in the words of a previous unionist leader mr adams its over to you

  • Philip

    Wow history really does repeat itself. Different singer but same tune – i knew i should have bought i house in 1998:(

  • Truth & Justice

    Hermon did not oppose the bill because she is for the St Andrews Agreement as are the UUP the arguments about the Irish Language Act and the terrible nature of it has been proved wrong and the Assembly gets to descide they dont have anything to bite on or to twist or to spin!!!!!!!!

  • Philip

    Truth & Justice: as i said before the NET result is the same. This is not a serious point but some form of justification for yourself and others for what has happened.
    Due to the doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty the Assembly cannot unmake any laws Parliament makes unless she explicitly states it. As the Irish Act is hardly going to get cross-party support from the DUP then it’s a Parliament issue also in a consocialism (power-sharing) state the concept implies that each community has a veto, this is why we have two first ministers from different traditions etc.

  • Would any of our DUP bloggers care to explain the rather perfunctory performance of their party when the StA Bill was going through the Lords yesterday. I counted 2 minor interventions from Maurice Morrow as recorded in Hansard. Why was Lady Paisley? Where was Lord Browne? In contrast Lord Turtle was moving amendments at Committee Stage all over the place.

  • Ian

    There was a very revealing contribution from Trimble about the ‘Yes Minister’ culture prevalent in the NI civil service. Interesting in the light of the comments made on other threads about the debacle over the IVC’s appointment and subsequent cover-up/judicial review:

    “Amendment No. 7 relates to a very important issue and I beg the indulgence of the Committee because it needs some explanation. When I was drafting the amendment we considered in the previous group of amendments which sought to delete the provision that a Minister has no ministerial authority to take any decision in contravention of a provision of the ministerial code, I was reminded of the question: who does take decisions in Northern Ireland?

    The law in Northern Ireland with regard to statutory functions and Ministers is radically different to the law in the rest of the United Kingdom and the practice that has developed from the experience of this House and elsewhere. Here, statutory functions are vested in Ministers; in Northern Ireland, statutory functions are vested in departments—it is not the Minister who decides. The Minister may meet his permanent secretary and say “I think we should do X”, and the permanent secretary may say, “Very good, Minister, we will do X”. But the person who legally takes the decision is the permanent secretary because he has the power; the Minister does not.

    The only power the Minister has by virtue of being a Minister is to direct the department. We have had experience of that; it produces some classic “Yes Minister” situations. If the permanent secretary does not like what is being proposed, he will gently and respectfully suggest so. But it has on occasion reached a situation where the permanent secretary has said to the Minister, “You are acting against the advice of the department and we will not do this unless you issue a formal direction”.

    My close colleague, Reg Empey, had experience of this; when he was a Minister he had to issue a direction to the department. He told me that they made a tremendous paraphernalia about it. Teeth were sucked, tongues were clucked, everybody gathered together very solemnly, and so on, and a document was drawn up whereby my colleague had to formally direct his department to do something that the department thought should not happen. The issue concerned—I find this most amusing—was a proposal to build a north-south gas pipeline, which the department should not be done and which a unionist Minister insisted be done. Indeed, he had negotiated a very good arrangement with his Irish counterpart, which resulted in his Irish counterpart investing money and financing the pipeline within Northern Ireland. We have benefited from that and everyone will benefit from the assurance of supply that exists through having that network. The issue is not important. It is just ironic in the context that this was the issue on which my colleague had to issue a direction because the power was not in him; he had only the power to direct.

    A further illustration occurred when, in 2001, because of the failure of the republicans to decommission, I was arranging for our Ministers to resign as a means of putting pressure on them. This, incidentally, worked because they started to decommission within a week or two of the final step of a process I had been operating over some months to bring pressure on them. In the discussions about the resignations—it involved not only my resignation, about which the officials were quite relaxed, but also the resignation of other Ministers who had statutory functions to discharge—there was a point where a senior official said, “We do not want the public finding out that we can take decisions without Ministers”. That is the position in Northern Ireland.

    It is most anomalous. No one knows quite where it comes from. It does not come from any plot that Governments have thought of over the past 20 years; it comes from the Government of Ireland Act 1920. The draftsman of that Act—a gentleman who rejoices in the name of Quekett—was the one who did it, but no one knows why. It is thought it has something to do with the practices and procedures in the local government board in Dublin, but I do not know what they are. I do not know why no one noticed this as the Act went through Parliament in 1920, although I have to confess I have not gone to the point of researching the parliamentary debates on the Government of Ireland Act 1920 to see whether the matter was ever raised. Perhaps a little legal essay could be written on that aspect of the matter. But it is anomalous. It is a matter that I raised within the process in Northern Ireland, as First Minister, on a number of occasions.”