David Ervine’s last piece of analysis, published in Tuesday’s Telegraph, and re-printed in yesterday’s Irish Times.He notes the general quietitude within Unionist communities, not least because of the discreet nature of the negotiations:
The real mood within our community is proving hard to read. There are few signs that the voter is particularly exercised by the possibility of a deal. The mood seems to me to be actually very calm. Those old enough will remember the anger and bitterness abroad over the years when some initiative or another was mooted. Thankfully, those days seem gone.
In recent times we’ve seen how both sides, while quietly negotiating, have almost let on that they are not negotiating. The DUP have been particularly guilty in this respect. St Andrews was built around the two protagonists – to the virtual exclusion of all others. Devolution and policing stood out with requirements expected from both sides. It seems to have gone downhill from then.
In the end though, he argued that unionism should facilitate Sinn Fein in getting through its last, and most difficult hurdle:
The endgame was always going to shake up the republican movement and its supporters. It is, after all, the final acceptance by republicans of Northern Ireland as a viable and integral part of the UK. It is also the final acceptance by republicans that no authority other than state authority is either practicable or tolerable. It is worth consideration that if Adams pulls it off at the Ard Fheis, a real line in history will have been drawn.
Quite a number of options exist in the political process if the DUP help create a date for the devolution of policing and justice and the position of Sinn Fein is proving dubious. Given the prize that is on offer for this society, it would be a shame if it were stalled and undermined. Put it up to the Shinners! They will have a substantial management project because of the challenge. From my point of view I hope Adams pulls it off. We, the unionists, should facilitate him to do so.
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