Pat Rabbitte recognises problems in both Sinn Fein and the DUP, but thinks “there may be elements of brinkmanship involved in the latest responses of both parties”. Full statement below:From Pat Rabbitte:
The early return from holiday of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and reports that the promised Sinn Fein Ard Fheis may not now be held would appear to suggest that the difficulties facing efforts to restore the Executive and other democratic institutions in Northern Ireland are more serious than we had been given to believe.
Clearly both Sinn Fein and the DUP are facing significant levels of internal opposition to the moves required to restore the Executive by the March deadline and there may be elements of brinkmanship involved in the latest responses of both parties. However, as we have seen in the past, brinkmanship is a dangerous game that can risk scuttling the whole process.
Most of the original deadlines set out in the St. Andrews Agreement have been missed and there is now a real danger that the March deadline for both new elections and the nomination of members of the Executive may now also be missed.
The long delay by Sinn Fein in convening its Ard Comhairle to call the special Ard Fheis to give its unequivocal backing to policing was unfortunate to say the least. However, the eventual decision made on Friday last was a significant one and it a merited a more positive response from the DUP that the one offered by Dr. Ian Paisley in his New Year’s message.
Courage on all sides is now required if the St. Andrews process is to be saved. Gerry Adams was quoted as saying last week that the Sinn Fein special Ard Fheis on policing was being called because ‘it was the right thing to do’. If this is the case he should ensure that the Ard Fheis goes ahead anyway by the end of January regardless of the DUP response. This would demonstrate that the Sinn Fein leadership was serious about delivering on the commitments they made and would also ‘put it up’ to the DUP.
The people of Northern Ireland deserve the restoration of their own democratic institutions based on the principles of the Good Friday Agreement. They are also entitled to expect that all Ministers in the Executive and Parties in the Assembly would fully support the reformed system of policing now in operation in Northern Ireland. It is up to all the political parties to deliver.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty