“this is a completely untrue statement.”

In response to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s article in the morning press, DUP leader Ian Paisley has clarified his position, but it’s unlikely to be the clarification wanted by some. Update belowFrom the PA report

“I do not agree with the statement of the Prime Minister when he claims that we, the DUP, agreed there could be devolution of policing and justice within a certain time limit,” he said.

“Sinn Fein have said there was a date … this is a completely untrue statement.

“I would ask the Prime Minister to say when this meeting takes place, who asked the question. There is a triple lock in place, when policing is devolved it goes back to the First Minister.”

Also in the morning press, the Belfast Telegraph’s Chris Thornton picks up on an example of insufficent ambiguity which may lie behind the current discussion on target dates.

[Blair’s] looking for the DUP to write ‘devolution’ into a couple of dates in their diaries. The first is March 26, when a power-sharing Executive is supposed to be up and running, provided Sinn Fein say how much they admire the peelers.

And he wants Ian Paisley to say he’s happy to see justice powers transferred from London to Belfast a little over a year later.

This is particularly important. The Sinn Fein leadership forgot all about constructive ambiguity when dealing with their own members, and agreed that they wouldn’t call their special ard fheis on policing without a date for the devolution of justice.

They want to be able to say that the PSNI is an Irish police force for an Irish people.

Since no date has been forthcoming from the DUP, Sinn Fein has threatened to scrap its ard fheis. As yet, no invitations have been sent out.

It’s a point which you may, or may not, remember being mentioned previously…

Update From the BBC report

Downing Street has refused to comment on its private conversations with Northern Ireland parties.

However, a spokesman said Mr Blair’s assessment was based on what should happen if Sinn Fein delivered fully on its commitment to support the police and the rule of law.

, , , ,

  • ingram

    quote”It’s a point which you may, or may not, remember being mentioned previously…

    surely not Pete?

    LOL

    Ding Ding

  • Yokel

    Now what?

    Right I’m confused. Looks like a case of Tony says anything to keep things on the go at one end, whilst the other end drops off.

    Having said that, SF now have their chance to not bother and lay it all at Paisley’s door.

    Either that or the DUP have calculated Tony’s a busted flush and have already engaged Brown. This si something Malachi O’Doherty mentioned yesterday and I have raised before.

    God knows.

  • Pete Baker

    Yokel

    There was mention in one report of a statement from a government spokesman clarifying what Blair was saying – referring to a context of the full delivery on policing by SF – if I can find it I’ll add it to the above.

  • ok

    oh joy! oh bliss! is it really possible that the whole stinking edifice, this modern hitler-stalin pact, will fall!?

  • Yokel

    Thank you Pete.

    It’s clear what seems to be happening is that one thing is said by Tony or Peter, the DUP come out and kick up a stink and then there’s clarification.

    Tony was clearly trying to give all the warm words he could publically to SF with the DUP saying nothing and now they’ve kicked up….

    Realistically the DUP will accept P&J in May 2008 because under the current system that looks to be propsoed SF won’t get it anyway and won’t for a very very long time.

    Having said that if I was in Connolly House and needed my excuse to do nothing then I’d believe I’d got it.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Timely.

  • Yokel

    Well I am confussed. Where to now?

    Do SF have enough to go ahead to a special conference with a clear statement of support? Thats still the No 1 timeline item.

    Tony wasn’t really saying much but god Paisley has come out waving his brush at the door.

  • Yokel

    Very timely Pat, particularly if you inhabit the upper echelons of SF right now.

    They have an excuse to delay if they want it. Old Ian was never serious…..

  • cynic

    Tony has issued a statement that wasn’t quite true! Never!

  • J Kelly

    it looks like that weekend in Dublin for the AF is now up the swaney

  • slug

    Well they did ask for clarity.

  • Mick Fealty

    So did Tony fumble the ball? And is it a case of Rip it up and start again… Or Just give me a little more time… (and our love will surely grow) If it was the British PM, then surely the next move is Gordon’s?

    Fits the Brolly scenario…

  • Yokel

    I’d say so JK.

    I dont think this was some genius masterstroke from SF other than to keep themselves interanlly right. On thats score it could be remarkably successful.

    I can see why they needed solidity or else they’d have trouble with their own ranks. How do you sign up, in advance, to something you’d probably prefer not to(already a hard pill to swallow).

    It’s looking like the Brtitish government couldnt or wouldnt give SF other things they wanted or needed in the background discussions so its easier to out the focus on Paisley refusing to say exactly what he’s always going to refuse to say. On thats score he can be relied upon 100%.

    The problem is that we still have a timeline issue here, policing support still is next on the list, that hasn’t changed.

    The second issue is what are the DUP thinking? From what I can see, if SF say ‘sorry, can’t do this’ they keep themselves together. The much vaunted Plan B isn’t a big Plan B really so big deal. The DUP also keep together and both sides solidify their positions.

    I’ve aleays felt that the DUP would rather shit on the carpet than give TOny his legacy deal, unless it was a very good deal from the DUP’s point of view. I’ve always felt that they have sounded out Brown for taking forward much the same deal but with a few hardening round the edge bits.

    The other big issue is how much pressure SF are under to go ahead anyway. Yes they have their reason to collapse everything but they, i suspect, are really under the cosh to keep going to call the special conference.

  • Donnie

    Where’s the discussion on Johnny Hero?!

  • The serious harm that will done to Irish Republicanism if Sinn Fein call off the AF far outweighs any egg on the face, so to speak if the DUP still refuse to share power, post a yes vote at the AF.

    No one will remember the DUP refusal to set a date for justice, all that will be remembered is Sinn Fein walked away from supporting Law and Order, police.

    It will take years to recoup the current political position held by Sinn Fein, in the eyes of the wider political world, America in partiqular.

    Just as Sept 12th 2001 was not a time to be associated with terrorism, so January 2007 is not a time to be associated with the perception of refusing to support Law and Order, police, even if this position is through no fault of Sinn Fein.

  • J Kelly

    yokel i would have thought that maybe sinn fein would have moved ahead anyway but for the statement from Martin McGuinness on Friday when he put it up to the Brits and the DUP. With this intervention from papa doc Sinn Fein will not call a special AF. In the short term if the brits call an election SF have it both ways they are up for policing for the softer nationalist vote and they haven’t and wont move for the harder republican vote.

  • Plum Duff

    “There is a triple lock in place, when policing is devolved it goes back to the First Minister.”

    For what…? Yet another series of hurdles?

    Maybe Miss Fitz is right with her song suggestion ‘There’s a hole in the bucket’ and Mick’s Wikipedia description of it as an ‘infinite loop motif’.

    This stalling could go on forever with us eejits paying for it ad infinitum, not to mention, ad nauseum.

  • Yokel

    Do you believe so Art?

    SF & its predecessors at that end of nationalism has survived many splits including one with many of its American backers in the 1920’s.

    Unity of the machine is important at this time.

    Donnie

    Thank you for that. It’s a biog scandal but sadly Johnny has no chance, If he was a big name DJ on national UK radio he might but sadly, the small man just don’t stand a chance.

  • Ian

    “The problem is that we still have a timeline issue here, policing support still is next on the list, that hasn’t changed.”

    The key date from SF’s perspective is the May 2008 one. If March 2007 is missed but the deal/election is done in the autumn instead, that doesn’t mean the May 2008 transfer of policing powers can’t happen (especially since aren’t going to be transferred to a SF Minister). It just means that the NIO can go ahead with completing reforms that are supported by SF (such as scrapping of academic selection, 7 super councils, etc) without the Unionist veto putting the brakes on them.

  • Yokel

    Problem is JK, Tony won’t call anything.

    I expect everything will put into stasis for a little though I’m still suspicious the DUP have sounded Gordon out. There is internal Labour politics here which frankly are very big.

  • Yokel

    Makes sense Ian but most of those reforms are small beer for SF (yes even the Super Councils) so I’m not convinced thats part of their calculation.

    The other problem is that its not Tony anymore, its Gordon. He may not be interested, he may not care, he might be slightly more one way than the other.

    If i was in SF I’d have put my money on getting more from Tony than from Gordon.

  • Ian

    The British Government are in default of the St Andrews Agreement as they have not yet published legislation to remove the bar on non-nationals applying for senior civil service posts, which they should have done by the end of last year.

    Another example of resistance to change within the upper echelons of the NIO?

  • George

    Bertie Ahern opening himself up to flax by letting it be known over the weekend that he’ll allow his government be supported by Sinn Féin if need be after the next Dáil election is a clear indication where he expects SF to go.

    Strong possibility of being in power by 2012 south of the border if they tidy up their policies.

    Possibility of serious influence by the summer if they finish their side of the policing equation.

    No unionist veto on any of that.

    SF should do the deal the people of Ireland want and need them to do.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    We are now left with the question of what was actually agreed at St Andrews and who exactly agreed to it?
    The date of May 2008 (if not before) as a deadline for the devolution of J&P powers was explicitly stated by both governments at that time. So if the DUP want to lay the blame of untrue statements on anyone it is with Blair and Ahern.

    Given that the DUP have now stated (through their leader) that no such date for devolution of J&P powers is on their horizon then what exactly was Blair basing his statements of last Thursday on.

    Either Blair was lying in an attempt to cajole SF into the AF on the promise of bread tomorrow, surely a non runner on account of the DUP almost certainly going public as they have done now to rubbish the claims. Or the DUP did give some sort of indication on the date for devolution that they have now clawed back on given the internal opposition within the party.

    Claims that the plethora of statements by senior DUP figures rubbishing the idea of devolution of J&P powerswas some sort of HQ organised tactic seem to be way off the mark.

    As it is, if SF ever wanted or indeed needed an excuse to call off the special AF it has been presented to them on a plate. I agree with J Kelly that within the community that they garner there votes SF can, if they so choose, have it both ways.

  • George

    Flack (not flax). Must be all this northern talk.

  • Yokel

    Pat

    Do you really have to ask the question was Blair lying?

    Ok some may call in ambiguity but remember this was this guys last shot at glory and he’s basically running around saying one thing, then another. He doesn’t care what happens in a years time or two, as long as he gets his ‘how i make peace’ lecture tour sorted. No one should underestimate how he really wanted that legacy.

    Mind you I’m not sure that this is a big boost to SF electorally at least not in the North. It may bring in some votes but I’m not sure there is much slippage from the SDLP left, unless its votes down the card. The dissident wing also hasnt gone away, and the decison on policing would still remain and that will be too much for some. Thus what they gain may be outstripped by what they lose at the other side. I’m not saying that the dissident ‘independent reublicans’ will get any seats in the immediate future anywhere but its not always the votes you gain its the votes you take away from someone else in PR.

    As for the idea of SF in coalition, in the South, forget it, wishful thinking not for years yet, not for a long long time. Bertie was just trying to say something as a carrot and he still couldnt say coalition.

    The key question though still remains, will SF yield to pressure and no doubt they are under pressure) to go with the special conference now. I’m not sure the UK government or indeed the Irish government will turn around and say ‘sure its alright, we understand you can’t support the police & courts, you go on not doing it’.

    I personally think they’ve been looking to crash land it short of some serious concessions that they couldn’t get. So I’m guessing thats exactly what they will do.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Yokel,

    why would Blair lie if the DUP were going to come out at say he was right away?

    Electorally, I agree with you, there is not going to be much change either way. Seats that were won by a few votes can just as easily change hands by the same margins. I know from registration work that people who now make up the anti SF alliance never bother to register and are very up front about the fact. Their beligerence may now come back to haunt them

    As regards the South I believe circumstances on the ground can change there very quickly, FF are what they are after all.

    As for pressure on SF while it may be applied I believe it will not reach anywhere the levels it could have if the DUP had allowed the process to continue in ambiguity. But then again the DUP were never any good at staying quiet.

    We differ at this point I see the AF going ahead.

  • Yokel

    I suspect Pat because Blair was in his usual say one thing to one, change emphasis to the other and Paisley has just cut him short. It may well be that the DUP have decided that SF still have to face the policing hurdle and will go to AF and that they won’t get out the other end electorally without damage. Who knows.

    If the AF goes ahead then thinsg become very interesting, I think it was Ian (not Paisley!) who suggseted that devolution would then crack on down the track which I think would be true but Tony’s chance to claim it is likely gone. Gordon will give it a go and I think may well have a better chance of seeing it under his watch.

  • qubol

    This statement by Paisley also surely kills any idea that all the descent in the DUP was intentional, some sort of game by the DUP HQ. The DUP are having problems otherwise Paisley wouldn’t of shit himself this morning when he read the Irish Times and then went to release this statement.

  • Yokel

    Qubol

    Paisley knew Tony was doing the rounds…SF thought that Tony was going to say something useful on Friday and in fact he really disappointed them.

    Tony is digging and he needs to stop.

  • Rubicon

    Interesting that Bertie is now prepared to enter a minority gov. in the south with SF support (assuming the election produces a hung Dail). I expect Pat’s judgement of FF is correct but the u-turn coming out at this point must mean either;

    1. Bertie is confident of the election, or
    2. Bertie is trying to encourage SF to stay on track and progress with the AF.

    He could be doing both of course!

  • ingram

    Pat.

    quote”We differ at this point I see the AF going ahead.

    For once we agree.

    At this point we part.

    Ding Ding

    Martin

  • Yokel

    Rubicon

    I’d agree, its warm words but it would take something for any of the major parties down there enter coalition with SF.

    As it is, the FG’s have already had a go at him over it.

    I’m still not sure Paisley was solely out to keep his party together I get the impression he was simply putting Tony back. Literally he was just pissed off with all the playing around.

    He could have left it and said nothing but he clearly has made some calulation somewhere. This is the one that I can’t work out

  • Plum Duff

    Yokel

    “I’m still not sure Paisley was solely out to keep his party together”

    I disagree completely. Just look at the pattern. Immediately after SAA he was fairly measured in his speech (no sack cloths & ashes) but since then he’s been relatively quiet. In the meantime, up bounces the Doddy Man with warnings of fire and brimstone, Alister spits condescending venom and Campbell hopes to visit Herod on all unbelievers (everyone who’s not in the DUP, that is). Then came SF’s ‘lack of a positive response’ statement. Next, as I observed on another thread, Baby Doc entered the fray and appeared to be riding both horses in one of his last utterances – his Da’s and the dissidents’. Meanwhile, Dodds keeps hammering away…

    Hence Paisley’s statement of today. I’m now convinced that the Oul’ Fellah has bottled it and ‘SOLELY’ for the sake of party unity.

    Naturally, a word from any of the above, to the tune of, “OK, guv, it’s a fair cop” would clarify matters but I’m afraid we’ll have to wait on that one.

  • Declan Murphy

    If big Ian doesn’t want to do the deal, Sinn Fein will be quite happy to run the North through the Irish British partnership arrangements as part of a Fianna Fail Sinn Fein coalition government in the South. All we need is the minister for “foreign” affairs portfolio. Bertie has given his strongest hint yet he may walk this route and it is my opinion that he may well have to. As for Ian let him no no no.. all the way to political obscurity.

  • Pat

    End of the road for the process? Strange spectacle yesterday watching the republican movements “enemy” heaping praise on Gerry Adams. Even stranger to learn that Gerry was non stop on the phone pleading with Blaire over the Christmas!

    Remind me again….who are the enemies of republicanism?

  • Word in Ballymena is that the knives are out for Peter Robinson, the shaft is on, as Baby Doc is being groomed as the rising star.

  • Pete Baker

    A couple of things to note, in case anyone missed them..

    Firstly, Paisley has just restated what his party has always maintained – the St Andrews Agreement doesn’t contain an enforceable deadline, it refers to the necessary building of confidence in the community prior to the devolving of policing and justice.

    Hence the legislation requiring cross-community support in the Assembly.

    Secondly, government ministers have stated that same point in the Commons.

    In short, it was never an enforceable deadline, it was only ever a target date to be worked towards by all parties.

    Blair’s other recent statement, which Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley previously welcomed, prior to today’s intervention, is also worth recalling

    “For their part, the DUP require that the Sinn Féin commitments to support for the police, the courts and the rule of law are translated into action so that there is real and tangible evidence of such support. It is delivery on those commitments that creates the conditions for devolution of policing and justice to take place. When there is delivery, there will be devolution.” [added emphasis]

  • ingram

    Pete,

    Once more you should take a bow Sir,

    Your value to this site goes without much mention but I can assure you it is noted and invaluable.

    Pointing out the actual crucial elements in the statements is illuminating.

    Thank you

    Martin