“When it meets again is another matter”

Interesting news from Ken Reid at UTV: “The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, says Sinn Fein must hold its special Ard Fheis on policing before the planned March election”. And later: “Gerry Adams was not impressed”.

Adds: The Secretary of State’s previous position was long on exhortation but soft on imposing a timeframe. That appears to have changed with this announcement.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Peter Hain is likely simply expressing the wish of his- and probably the Irish- government.

    However, what is becoming clearer is that there is not likely to be a Sinn Fein decision over policing- via an Ard Fheis- unless and until an agreement is reached over the devolution timetable for policing.

    On this one, Sinn Fein are on firm ground within the nationalist community, and, if Hain’s interview Sunday morning on Andrew Marr’s BBC1 programme is anything to go by, the British are fully aware (and perhaps even sympathetic) of that position.

  • Mick Fealty

    “…the British are fully aware (and perhaps even sympathetic) of that position.”

    That accords with the private briefing reports, and the reports of some other meetings I’ve been hearing.

    But this statement seems to be an iterative move on from the the one he made in the Commons last week:

    Sinn Fein needs to call an ard fheis — and before it, I guess, an ard chomhairle — to make it crystal clear that it is signing up to the pledge of office and that it is endorsing the terms of this legislation and the pillar that I mentioned at the beginning about the support for the rule of law and policing.

    It is absolutely crucial that Sinn Fein has to call that conference, and I expect it to do so.

    There is a choice to be made by the parties and the people—not next week, not next month, not next year, not the year after that, but now. Choices do not get easier if they are postponed; mostly they get harder.

    Note the lack of a specific timeframe. Whether prompted by pressure from the DUP or not, that looks like a significant shift.

  • slug

    “there is not likely to be a Sinn Fein decision over policing- via an Ard Fheis- unless and until an agreement is reached over the devolution timetable for policing. On this one, Sinn Fein are on firm ground within the nationalist community”

    Does make me wonder what the broad nationalist community think on this point.

  • Mick Fealty

    All:

    Please note that I added the link above after the thread began.

  • Uh huh

    Right, big deal, Shinners have to have an Ard Fheis that passes a motion in favour of SF joining the policing partnerships.

    Big deal, it’s not as if they have given away any of the other sacred cows of Irish Republicanism, is it?

  • Truth and Justice

    Get on with it and support the Police and stop the messing

  • stardate

    stop the messing – are the DUP prepared to share power or not ?

    when will they decide to talk face to face with their prospective Government partners ?

    not impressed or hopeful for either.

  • Cato

    Fascinating and I think that Hain will insist that the DUP concede a timetable for the devolution of policing and justice powers. I would like someone to just answer me one thing. As it becomes clear that the DUP at large have a huge issue with where the leadership is going, why is Dr Paisley insisting on pressing ahead? Why is that hardline unionist leaders always go mainstream?

  • Mick Fealty

    Cato:

    Hardline unionist leaders go mainstream only when the long term rewards for making democracy work (see: http://tinyurl.com/yzo9aa) are higher than pulling it down.

  • Gonzo

    Frank Millar in the Irish Times this morning said SF was prepared to hold the ard fheis in January if certain conditions were fulfilled, including “prior agreement with the DUP on a timetable for the devolution of policing an djustice powers to Stormont”.

    Millar added: “They also say that the DUP would be entitled to regard the new pledge of office, enshrined in last week’s emergency legislation, as amounting to an explicit endorsement of the PSNI.

    “The sources reiterated however that Gerry Adams would not move to call an ardfheis without DUP agreement on the modality of a new policing and justice ministry at Stormont, the timetable for the transfer of powers and a resolution with the British government on the vexed question of MI5 involvement with the PSNI.”

    I think we can assume that the latter issue with the British can be resolved. Sinn Fein’s has stated that it doesn’t want MI5 to be involved in civic policing, and there are ways around that (the PSNI’s five standards for MI5 to meet has already been agreed, for example). And the fact that the new MI5 HQ at Palace Barracks is being spun as a base to deal with dissident republicanism (as well as Islamic terrorism) might not be a complete turn-off either.

    Which leaves, if Millar is correct, the two ‘tests’ SF is putting up to the DUP. Can they be met? The ‘modality’ is something I think is not impossible to agree on, which leaves the timetable.

  • Cato

    An interesting thought Mick though Dr Paisley has not always had such a reputation for pragmatism over principle and it seems a remarkable volte face. A prominent Ulster Unionist told me it was because the Doctor had been told on the side, just as Trimble was, that the alternative is a great deal worse. Mick, is it too fanciful to believe that this is all part of a secret deal between Sinn Fein and the Government stretching back to 1998 or before?

  • Mick Fealty

    Cato (great name, btw),

    Gonzo’s thoughts above are worth weighing carefully. But I’ve been keeping an eye on that same (apparently implausible) proposition myself for some time. Whilst past words are no guarantee of future action, it is still worth checking out this post.

    It’s certainly worth considering. But in general terms, conspiracy theories are considerably less productive than a careful (Pete might say Baconian) weighing of fact and evidence. With the latter there is at least the promise of unexpected discovery.

  • Pete Baker

    While not discounting completely Gonzo’s thoughts on recent statements issued by SF – and Frank Millar is reporting what has been said to him, not giving his thoughts on the issue – it’s worth noting that those statements have only partially quoted the actual motion passed by the SF Ard Chomhairle in response to the St Anrdews Agreement

    “We reject any role for MI5 in Ireland or in civic policing.”

    As Frank Millar has pointed out elsewhere

    The St Andrews Agreement, and subsequent legislation, contains a target date for the devolution of policing and justice – in line with previous legislation, the quadruple lock.

    Demanding an enforcable deadline is outside that agreement and legislation – as is demanding no role for MI5 – it’s about the difference between target dates and commitments, and deadlines and conditions

  • parcifal

    A B from a Bull’s foot:

    In the French language almost all personal defects begin with the letter B; e.g. bigle (squint-eyed), borgne (one-eyed), bossu (humpty), boiteux (lame), etc.

    Not to know B from a battledoor. To be quite illiterate, not to know even his letters. Miege tells us that hornbooks used to be called battledoors. The phrase might therefore originally mean not to know the B of, from, or out of, your hornbook. But its more general meaning is “not able to distinguish one letter from another.”

    “He knoweth not a B from a battledoore.” —Howell; English Proverbs.

    “Distinguish a B from a battledore.” —Dekker: Guls Hornebook.

    I know B from a Bull’s foot. Similar to the proverb, “I know a hawk from a hernshaw.” (See Hawk.) The bull’s parted hoof somewhat resembles a B.

    “There were members who scarcely knew B from a bull’s foot.” — Brackenbridge: Modern Chivalry.

  • fair_deal

    CD

    “unless and until an agreement is reached over the devolution timetable for policing.”

    On Friday Conor Murphy said the modalities of devolution and timeframe had to be sorted out.

    On Sunday Gerry Kelly said the modalities, timeframe and MI5 needed sorted out.

    On Tuesday you say it is the timeframe.

    If SF are going to have policing preconditions can you all at least keep them consistent.

  • Yokel

    Look lads, read back yesterday and you’ll see that it was pointed out that Hain’s position had shifted. More significant than anything he said was Tony Blair’s statement on Friday that established a clear sequence: Get signed up to policing get power sharing devolution.

    What has changed at this moment and time?

    1. The UK government does understand its a bottom line situation

    2. The UK government is attempting to halt any attempt by Sinn Fein to drag this issue out because that will blow timescales, particularly for Tony’s leaving do.

    3. There is no way Sinn Fein will win anything on MI5. It just won’t happen.

    The DUP are already well aware that policing will get its first go at getting devolved in 2008 and they will likely say that they’ll give it a go.
    Mysteriously, however, they won’t carry all their own people at the assembly be scuppered. They did try though…

    Secondly the DUP will devolve policing in 2008 as long as they are sure they’ll be the largest party and get the ministerial post.

    Does anyone have a report on the meeting in West Belfast last night regarding policing and other issues?

  • fair_deal

    Yokel

    There was a very brief piece on the local news segment on the BBC breakfast show. It described it as “largely critical meeting” with members of Sinn Fein present and mentioned about about a couple of 32 CSM people on the platform. No info on numbers

  • DK

    It was called “Policing – a bridge too far” and the flyers advertising it in WB seem to show pictures of some sort of protest (although I didn’t see them very clearly as I was in traffic). So guess what way the discussion went: “are the police to be shunned or treated as a legitiamte target”.

  • Yokel

    Only two alternatives DK?

  • inuit_goddess

    FD:

    Consistency is not exactly the DUP’s strong card right now either.

    Dodds was quoted yesterday as saying the problem with SF’s approach is that they won’t sign up to policing until they are assured that nationalists will have equal influence over the police.

    If this is SF’s approach (altho’ reading this thread they seem to have more on their wishlist than that) it does seem quite reasonable to me – after all, all the Parties have now agreed that the whole basis of government here is to be on a shared basis, and it makes sense for devolved control over the police to be on a shared basis also.

    So which is the DUP line? Is it Dodds who has ruled out devolution for a lifetime, and who in the above quoted statements seems to rule out any republican influence over devolved policing – or is it your Paisley/Robinson wing who are clearly gunning to get this sorted out so we can get devolution up.

    Half the DUP seem to be selling the SAA as the Greatest Thing Ever / Wonderful Victory For Unionism, the other half don’t seem able to get their heads around even the basics of what power-sharing is about.

  • fair_deal

    inuit

    Got a link for the Dodds quote

    “Is it Dodds who has ruled out devolution for a lifetime, and who in the above quoted statements seems to rule out any republican influence over devolved policing – or is it your Paisley/Robinson wing who are clearly gunning to get this sorted out so we can get devolution up.”

    Dodds said a political lifeltime and Robinson said several political lifetimes. So what exactly is the supposed difference?

  • nmc

    If I were to make a point about the DUP’s consistency (or lack of it), I would draw attention to Paisley’s “Never, never, never” speech of the twelfth this year.

    Or perhaps “Compromise, accommodation and the least surrender are the road to final, irrevocable disaster!”

  • inuit_goddess

    Robinson said it yonks ago, not just after his party had negotiated the St Andrews Agreement.

    Even Hain singled out Robinson and Paisley as differing from Dodds on this.

  • fair_deal

    inuit goddess

    “Robinson said it yonks ago, not just after his party had negotiated the St Andrews Agreement.

    Wrong.

    Robinson used the phrase “political lifetime” in May at Westminster.

    On 30th October 2006 Nigel Dodds repeated the phrase in an interview on

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/6100148.stm

    On 20th November 2006 Peter Robison then used the phrase “several political lifetimes”, see link below.

    http://breakingnews.ie/ireland/?jp=CWIDOJIDQLGB

    “Even Hain singled out Robinson and Paisley as differing from Dodds on this.”

    Hain representation was wrong (hardly a shocker that) as the links above show.

    As to your earlier claim and as you haven’t provided the link I’ll offer it for you. His comments are not as you characterised.

    http://www.dup.org.uk/Articles.asp?Article_ID=2518