Are we back to December 2004? In a public response to a privately circulated document from the NIO, Peter Robinson today warned the British government that his party would not accept any attempt to appoint a justice minister and deputy over the heads of local political parties at Stormont.
“If that were ever to happen, it would be the death knell for devolution. The suggestion that a national government could appoint ministers to a devolved government is so preposterous that it is unworthy of devolution.”
He also warned against any concessions on the so called On The Runs. Both issues would, he appears to be saying, be deal breakers. Not quite the kind of response Sinn Fein may have been looking for in order to call its special Ard Fheis. Given such an icey reposte, will they call one?
For his part, Robinson (‘the reformer’) seems determined to run the risk of allowing a collapse of the whole devolution project and a resumption of Plan B. He may be gambling on Sinn Fein’s commitment to making their own necessary moves regardless of how the detail is worked. Or perhaps he is happy to take his chances with a new Labour Prime Minister and a new round of negotiations twelve months (or so) hence.