Ministry remains under DUP lock and key, for now…

Judging from the body language in the car park yesterday there appears to be concern within the DUP over keeping the horses together. They had been by far the most animated party on the Assembly benches, and afterwards, the two statements appear to confirm that the frictions are real enough beneath the surface. However, it is interesting to note that the ‘not in a political lifetime’ quote, widely attributed to Nigel Dodds as evidence of an internal split, was actually taken directly from one of Peter Robinson’s parliamentary contributions, back in May. It was noticeable too that in the Chamber, Mark Durkan was volubly cheered by the DUP benches every time he laid the allegation at Sinn Fein that they had freely given the DUP a secure lock on when and whether the ministerial oversight gets devolved to the Assembly. It is something that Sinn Fein ceded in principle during the failed negotiation of the Comprehensive Agreement, and welcomed 18 months later with the passing into UK legislation of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.

It is not inconceivable that some individuals, still unreconciled to power sharing with Sinn Fein, take this at face value and view it as a permanent lock on keeping them out of government. For the pragmatists, it could be a decent bargining chip, if there is actually any real negotiating going on over the issue.

In reality, it is only there so long as the UK parliament deems the Assembly a viable route to the future. If there was any doubt that the current shadow Assembly is anything other than a vassal of Westminster, Ian Paisley proved it yesterday.

As Peter Hain has proved time and again this year, Westminster is where the real power still lies in Northern Ireland.

Don’t hold your breathe for a rosy folksy outcome. This is negotiation up to a deal, through a deal, and beyond deal.


  • fair_deal

    Peter Robinson earlier this week used the phrase several political lifetimes.

  • betterireland

    Durkan is right that Sinn Fein conceded the veto on the devolution of justice. This is as reflection of their total negotiation failure.

    Paragraph 8 of the failed SF/DUP Comprehensive Agreement provides that:

    “The British Government will commit to introducing in Parliament …. The legislation necessary to permit the devolution [of justice] to take place. Such legislation will come into force as soon as possible, once sufficient confidence exists across the community, as expressed in a cross community vote in the Assembly, proposed by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.”

    Originally, the Northern Ireland Act 1998 allowed the devolution of justice by simple cross community vote.

    But the NI Miscellaneous Provision Act 2006 implemented the failed SF/DUP Comprehensive Agreement by inserting s.4(2A) into the Northern Ireland Act, 2006 by providing that the devolution of justice can only happen:

    – if the First Minister and Deputy First Minister propose it; and
    – if a majority of unionist members and a majority of nationalist members and a majority overall vote in favour.

    Peter Robinson said at the time that this legislation was going through that there would not be devolution of justice in a political lifetime. Now Nigel Dodds is saying the same. Sinn Fein gave the DUP the veto that is now being used to hold back progress for all of us.

    The DUP have used this veto, that they got courtesy of Sinn Fein , as a stick to beat Sinn Fein with. And ultimately, Sinn Fein can only blame themselves for their negotiation failure. Of course, at the time, their negotiation efforts were diverted by the fact that their priority was the release of Garda McCabe’s killers and OTRs – things they wanted for themselves rather than for nationalists.

    One wonders, though, if Gerry Adams is still as proud of the Comprehensive Agreement as he was in 2004:

    “No one should be in any doubt that a mighty piece of work has been done”, SF Leader Gerry Adams on the Comprehensive Agreement, 8 December 2004.

  • heck

    If SF have given the DUP a veto on nationalist rights in Norn Iron then plan B is the only acceptable way forward.

    Nor should they support the PSNI/UVF until the issue of collusion is addressed.

    We don’t need the PSNI/UVF!! Underpaid, unarmed, polish security guards can do a better job of protecting nationalists from loyalist death squads! And we can show the courts the same respect as Hain and his civil servants.

  • Rubicon

    FD – you only quote part of a sentence that included the conditional statement, “if SF continues to delay moves to endorse the police”.

    While the DUP are having some trouble keeping the party together – so too are SF. The SAA really doesn’t raise the bar on devolution of criminal justice since it is pretty inconceivable that an Assembly that would pass a cross-community vote would be deliberately blocked by the First Minister.

    SF has not achieved a date for the devolution of criminal justice. The BA didn’t include it, the Comprehensive Agreement didn’t include it and the SAA doesn’t. Has this message got through to SF supporters yet? It seems a brave few still believe it to be ‘a work in progress’.

    It is on this issue that devolution of ALL power hangs. At this point, criminal justice will be devolved when there is the required confidence for that to happen within both communities. It was this that was supported by the people across Ireland and there has been no change to that at any time since.

    Once the focus moves from the obvious stresses within the DUP the issue of SF using endorsement of policing as a negotiating tool will loom large. In NI not much political damage may emerge from it – but ‘down South’ – that could be another story and very damaging to SF’s all-Ireland ambitions.

    Are SF loosing their adroit political skill in exposing unionist intransigence by hanging on to baggage already ditched down South? The Garda are a partitionist police force as much as the PSNI – worse still (in ‘republican’ ideology) is the recognition of the “Free State Army” (thankfully, SF are not being asked to climb that hurdle North of the border).

    If SF can do it South of the border they should do so North of it too. Once that’s done we can all see the colour of the DUP money and expose their backwoodsmen.

  • heck

    I’m not sure this is the right place to ask this but did anybody read Martin Kettles’ article in the guardian?,,1956773,00.html

    I thought it was interesting and some of it could apply to Nor Iron. His thesis is that the law is a “bargain between the individual and the state”
    When we talk about devolving policing and justice to Norn Iron we are not talking about a partnership. We are saying that the British government can dictate to us and not have to strike a “bargin”. I can see was SF and having such a difficult time with the policing issue.

    He also taked about arbitary decision making. very applicable to our recent SOSs.

  • better ireland

    Sinn Fein’s negotiating incompetence with the dup does not stop there.

    On Thursday of the week before last the legislation to implement the St Andrews deal was published.

    Sinn Fein ran a briefing at which they said that they were happy with what the new legislation said on ministerial accountability. This was no surprise: they had failed at the preparation for Government Committee to back the concerns of the SDLP on ministerial accountability about new DUP vetoes.

    That Sinn Fein was happy with the new legislation was reported in the press, notably in a piece by Noel McAdam in the Belfast Telegraph.

    So what does the new legislation mean? Well it’s pretty clear what David Hanson says it means. Responding in parliament to questions that had been put in advance by the DUP.

    He said:

    “The hon. Gentleman also asked the Secretary of State to confirm that, by virtue of the arrangements put in place by the Bill, details relating to the North/South Ministerial Council or any matter involving relationships with the Republic of Ireland will require Executive approval. I can confirm that such matters will be referred to under the ministerial code that applied until suspension, and will require Executive agreement. Under the arrangements provided for in the Bill, decisions taken without Executive agreement would not be legitimate and would be open to legal challenge.”
    Hansard, 21 November 2006, Col 479.

    Remember that the new legislation also allows any three ministers (and the DUP have those numbers and more to spare at the Executive) to veto any ministerial decision – and what do you get.

    It’s simple: the DUP have a veto over anything and everything in the North South agenda.

    Of course, all this flows from the failed SF/DUP Comprehensive Agreement in 2004.

    So there you have it: another veto over the institutions designed to ensure nationalist equality given by Sinn Fein to the DUP.

    And again here we have what Gerry Adams has to say about all this:

    “No one should be in any doubt that a mighty piece of work has been done”, SF Leader Gerry Adams on the Comprehensive Agreement, 8 December 2004.

    And people say that Sinn Fein are good negotiators? negotiation failures more like.

  • exuup

    hecks right, we dont want sinn fein anywhere near the police until collusions sorted. After all how many SF members colluded in the murder of police officers in the past. WE know SF + the IRA are two sides of the one coin, and that Martin McGuinness mustve carried out many operations against the police as an ira commander.

    SF must be kept away until their murky past is brought to light and fully admitted to

  • Comrade Stalin

    Jesus, the Stoops aren’t half coming out of the woodwork these days. Where have you lads been for the past three years ?

  • BeardyBoy

    Can anyone tell me why Nationalists of any hue want to get Stormont working? Surely we should keep this place as a failed statelet?

    We should have the minimum demands of going in laid out simply

    I would suggest

    1. Complete control of policing
    2. No Poynings Law – what is decided here is what happens – we have veto over any English Laws
    3. Complete exposure of all state collusion
    4. The right to have seats in the Dail
    5. The right to transfer departments to Dublin

    Anything less should mean no show