In the Irish Times Gerry Moriarty casts his eye[subs req] over the various statements of the past few days, including the noises off within the DUP and SF, and gives a reasonable assessment of the current situation and the decisions ahead.From the Irish Times
Mr Adams, who has his own dissident internal “noises off”, as he ponders his next move, now knows how David Trimble felt when he was being shafted by Sinn Féin. Yet, with the proper nerve and desire he could still out-manoeuvre his own and the DUP rejectionists.
He says that, whatever about Mr Dodds, Mr Allister and so on, that he accepts that Dr Paisley wants this to succeed and that when the DUP leader said he was a man of his word at St Andrews he meant it. Dr Paisley, even allowing for a negative interpretation of his statement yesterday, has said over recent days that if Sinn Féin delivers he won’t be found wanting, and that there can be a timeframe for devolving policing.
But just as Mr Trimble had to trust Mr Adams so must Mr Adams must trust Dr Paisley to deliver. If he takes a gamble and proceeds with and carries an ardfheis, then the DUP could hardly justify not allowing devolution on March 26th.
The DUP opponents of powersharing would be equally hard-pressed to deny the devolution of policing powers by May 2008 if Sinn Féin’s commitment to policing was evident. And would Dr Paisley – if he is still at the DUP helm by then – allow his colleagues to dishonour a solemn pledge. [added emphasis]
Talk will continue with Mr Blair and through the prime minister with Dr Paisley in the days ahead to try to make it easier for the Sinn Féin leader. But Mr Adams has to jump.
The emphasis highlights a point made in Prime Minister Tony Blair’s statement yesterday,
On the above basis the Government is in a position to facilitate the timeframe set out in para 7 of the St Andrew’s Agreement, namely on or before May 2008, provided of course that the Sinn Fein commitments are translated into action within that timeframe; and the DUP undertake it will do nothing to delay or obstruct devolution of policing and justice when those conditions are met.[added emphasis]
It’s a point worth highlighting for several reasons, not least that the assembly sub-group on policing is still to finalise its recommendations on the most recent proposals from Peter Hain. Those proposals were welcomed by Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly ahead of a sub-group meeting yesterday, when he stated that the proposal “is broadly in line with the approach outlined in our [SF] paper”.
No doubt that’s based on a similiar reading of the proposal to that of the UUP’s Reg Empey
But a senior government source has already claimed that such a reading was “complete nonsense”. And, although the document itself[.doc file] may tend to support such a reading, my own take on it is that politically it would be impossible to impose either a minister or the devolved powers without the support of the Assembly.
Which is where the statement by Tony Blair, and the conditions on the ground it refers to, comes into play in regard to the May 2008 target date.
The question remains as to whether that target date matches the demands Sinn Féin imposed on themselves before the special Ard Fheis would be held
The Sinn Fein President will propose to the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle that it calls a special Ard Fheis to decide Sinn Fein’s position on new policing arrangements in the context of:
Agreement between the parties on the departmental model and powers to be transferred;
The enactment by the British government of the legislation to give full expression to this transfer of powers on policing and justice away from London;
A DUP commitment to an acceptable timeframe for the transfer of powers on policing and justice.
A position paper would go to all levels of the party for discussion to inform a comprehensive debate leading up to the special Ard Fheis.
We may find out in the days ahead what the Secretary of State for Wales, etc, Peter Hain thinks he meant by his proposals. The sub-group on policing and justice have invited him to attend a meeting next week. The Belfast Telegraph report has a response to that invite from an NIO spokesman
A spokesman for the NIO said Mr Hain had already agreed in principle that he will meet with any Assembly committees that want to see him, although he had not received the sub-committee’s invitation and might need to juggle his diary.
Perhaps, by Tuesday?