Taking stock: It wasn’t so long ago that republicans were accused of employing the language of evasion to avoid answering direct questions. It woud appear things have turned on their head and it is now the leader of Unionism, Ian Paisley, who has been accused of evasive language at a time when clarity holds the key to progress.
Of course, there are reasons for Paisley’s evasion, and they’re to be found in the numerous interviews given by party colleagues like Gregory Campbell and Jim Allister, which has provided an insight into what the DUP see happening once republicans have jumped the policing hurdle.
Aware of the traps that lay ahead- thanks (doubtlessly intentionally) to a heads up from Campbell and Allister- Martin McGuinness (today’s Inside Politics) has indicated that republicans will await a much clearer and firmer commitment from the unionist leader about his future intentions before committing to the Ard Fheis.
An interesting divide is emerging between the stated positions of the two governments at this point. Foreign Minister, Dermot Ahern, decisively pointed to the need for clarity from Paisley in his RTE interview earlier in the week; whilst the decision by the NIO and Tony Blair to accept Ian Paisley’s ‘jesuitical’ welcome of the British Prime Minister’s statement has been criticised by Martin McGuiness.
It all essentially boils down to this: if Sinn Fein pass the Ard Fheis motion on policing by January’s end, will the DUP, firstly, go live with devolution on March 26 and secondly, support the devolution of policing and justice by May 2008?