Ha! Ha! or Hmmmm?

Three months of post St Andrews negotiations on MI5, transatlantic phone calls, a prime ministerial holiday cut short, a mini-crisis and a parliamentary statement without anything particularly new to show for it besides an annual review by Lord Carlile and a few details nailed down. It is hard to identify how the November negotiation goals have been acheived. The SDLP launching an assault on Sinn Fein’s ability as negotiators and Sinn Fein on the defensive. Lots of chatter about disquiet among the republican grassroots and claims of an electoral price to be paid. The temptation for Unionists would be to sit back and enjoy a good old political bust up but do the last three months call for a Nelson Muntz moment (mp3 file) or pause for reflection?A Prime Minister who is legacy shopping didn’t budge from the fundamentals of the St Andrews Agreement as Sinn Fein employed all their tried and tested moves to squeeze something out of him. The DUP itself has a series of “outstanding issues” it wants addressed and a significant proportion of the ‘Yes’ vote in the DUP consultation was conditional on progress on these. Blair’s optical and verbal flexibility but substantive toughness towards Sinn Fein should be noted. It will be a tough negotiation ahead for the DUP and it is possibly in the area of confidence building measures that they will find greater success than changes to St Andrews.

Sinn Fein’s difficulties in talking the talk by dragging out an Ard Fheis and keeping the motion under wraps doesn’t inspire confidence that they will walk the walk and it is the walk that the DUP are focused upon. The more wholehearted the Sinn Fein motion probably the better for their southern fortunes whatever the large or small scale difficulties in Northern Ireland. However, past short bowling has never prevented the government issuing glowing statements and pressurising others to ignore the cracks. Good bad or indifferent republican delivery will each recieve the same response from government. Goggins certainly adopted a ‘nothing to see here’ approach to David Simpson’s questions in the House of Commons yesterday. Political nerve will be tested.

Margaret Thatcher said “I’ve learned one thing in politics. You don’t take a decision until you have to.” The first decision the DUP faces is on the formation of an Executive in March and the DUP doesn’t have to take its decision until after the election. Elections are the most important time for message management and the most difficult to maintain it. Talk of tests and time are essentially debates about risk and trust. Protestantism’s abhorrence of gambling has effected the political culture of Unionism with its emphasis upon certainties but any political agreement involves risk. It is unsurprising that it is primarily representatives from areas that suffered the most express the deepest distrustf. However, whether it is two months or four months, five tests or ten tests, if the republican movement is still foolish enough to be up for ‘pulling a northern’ it will do so regardless of a wait or tests. Political discipline will be required both in message and taking and sticking with decisions.

So if schadenfreude is your thing sit back and enjoy the entertainment if you wish but in the coming weeks and months Unionism needs to ensure it does not make the matinee entertainment pale by comparison.

  • ingram

    The election is the only real problem.

    Sinn Fein did not factor for the level internal dissent. take a look on Chris Gaskins site. This is a Republican site. The majority are not in favour.

    Chris himself is not sure and keeps making the point to all that he has not been convinced.

    That shows that the ball is still up in the air.

    take a look.

    http://www.haloscan.com/comments/gaskin/116852707211421101/

    Ding Ding

    Martin

  • Brendan, Belfast

    Funny to see the likes of Chris pointing out, hopefully convincing people, that “the Ombudsman already holds all cops to account.”

    not so long ago Catriona Ruane was giving out about the ‘ineffectiveness of the Ombudsman’, in order to castigate the stoops.

    It is funny to watch worms turning. funny and sad.

  • wee ulsterman

    “The first decision the DUP faces is on the formation of an Executive in March and the DUP doesn’t have to take its decision until after the election.”

    Ah, that good aul’ platform of ambiguity and deceit…

    What on earth is the point of having an election if you dont have the balls to say you will actually go ahead and form a government at the end of it?

    An end to ambiguity! Start saying clearly what it is you intend to do – and the unionist people will be kinder to you for it.

    Trying to start pulling the wool over people’s eyes, or to use ambiguity to keep your bigoted wing on board will get you nowhere.

  • Bruce101

    “What on earth is the point of having an election if you dont have the balls to say you will actually go ahead and form a government at the end of it?” (Wee Ulsterman)

    Oh but they will. They will say they will go into government when there is satisfactory delivery.

  • wee ulsterman

    whats going to be so different about the delivery by march 7th and the delivery that’s going to be obvious by january 27th?

    it’s just 5 weeks!

    dups need to grow some balls and face down their numpties…

  • CS Parnell

    Seems to me both Sinn Fein and the DUP are desperate to be let off the hook by the other one pulling out first. The two monoliths of 2003 are looking brittle.

    In an election I don’t see the SDLP making big ground against the Shinners, but there must be a prospect of some advance from the lows of that year.

    On the Unionist side the story remains one of despair.

  • Pól

    Your annalists are based on wishfully thinking. You don’t fight a war for thirty years. Take on one of the most well equipped armies in the world. Plus there political establishment, come out of that conflict undefeated to be told by your political enemy that you have made all the wrong moves and that you have backed yourself into a corner. Doesn’t make sense. Are those shiners up to something. Well we will just have to wait and see.
    So don’t count your(DUP)chickens yet.

  • Bruce101

    “whats going to be so different about the delivery by march 7th and the delivery that’s going to be obvious by january 27th?” (Wee Ulsterman)

    You’re beginning to sound like Jim Allister. This sounds like a DUP reason to have a longer period to assess the delivery.

    I would have thought that between Jan 27 and March 26 SF will have to show support for the RUC (sorry) PSNI. Every crime will be a challenge to them. Press will be asking them if they want to invite local people to give information to police. Will SF members be meeting local police chiefs? These are the tangible tests that will provide evidence of delivery.

    The DUP are boxing clever. (Well most of them if you ignore Allister, Dodds, Campbell, Morrow, McCrea, Simpson …)

  • Bruce101

    “On the Unionist side the story remains one of despair.”

    Sadly, the unionist confidence graph has gone up significantly over the past few weeks in line with SF defections and problems. Both parties need the other to have difficulties to explain to their own supporters that the deal is good ’cause it’s hurting the other guy.

  • wee ulsterman

    “Both parties need the other to have difficulties to explain to their own supporters that the deal is good ‘cause it’s hurting the other guy.'”

    yeah – hence all these tiresome predictable threads from FD and Chris D each trying to outdo the other in proving what an absolute mess the other lot are in, and what a canny bunch of negotiators our lot have…

    it would be fun to watch if it wasn’t so serious. at least sf are clear about wishing to sign up to policing, and they’re deselecting even MLAs who step out of line.

    the geniuses in DUP HQ meanwhile presumably intend to fight the election with a huge chunk of their candidate slate way off base, ruling out devolution for several lifetimes etc…

    but if they think they can play the aul’ creative ambiguity thing through this campaign, boy oh boy, big political trainwreck right up ahead…

  • MT

    My view, based on last year’s ard fheis motion (which also passed a critical motion which the ard comhairle opposed from the platform) is that SF will NOT call a special ard fheis to sign up to policing. The leadership has badly misjudged the grassroots membership in all the rural areas outside of Belfast and Derry. I’m led to believe that several prominent SFer’s , who include some household names, have been taking the leadership on internally over the past few weeks and are prepared to do so externally and publicly if the special ard fheis arises

  • BeardyBoy

    What makes you think the the IRA were not defeated?

    Sinn Fein have got themselves into a stupid situation trying to split Unionists – stupid strategy – they would do better saying that they would ensure the instability of any partitionist state showing the futility of the border – eventually someone else would have to crack – bet it would be the guys who are bankrolling the place – the weak spot is not the Unionist but the English, if they say they are out the border is gone and negotiation with them and the unionists about the future takes on a more realistic aspect.

    By saying the support the legitimacy of the state means they will inevitably support the institutions of the state so why the hoo haa now?

  • páid

    The way some of the unionists are swallowing schadenfreudewurst and popkorn, one would think that the entire MI5 riddled SF leadership had signed up to the ‘committee to regain the Ashes’ whilst learning the third verse of ‘Rule Britannia’.

    Now for the bad news:

    It’s the PSNI not the RUC. The RUC you claimed not so long ago was ’emasculated’.

    So no more Sir Ronnie

    No more Portadown whistle and walk by.

    No more referrals to the ‘mainland’.

    The PSNI is another stepping stone to a united Ireland police force, and allows Nationalists to be practically and fairly policed.

    Bring it on.

  • time will tell

    Sinn Fein were out performed in negotiations by

    the DUP
    the Brits
    the Irish government
    the SDLP
    the Womens coalition (for jesus sake)
    the UUP

    it a wonder the sticks didnt show up for a laugh just to show how shite the Sinn Fein negotiators really are

  • mcgrath

    Posted by BeardyBoy on Jan 12, 2007 @ 01:51 AM

    Haa, “Greenflag” has a beard!

  • steven

    Elections will convincly put the DUP back as the largest unionist party. I dont belive will get the majority they require if and when they call their Ard Fheis.

    I also think SF will lost some marginal seats to dissident reprublicans

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    CS Parnell,

    Seems to me both Sinn Fein and the DUP are desperate to be let off the hook by the other one pulling out first.

    What is the evidence of this?

    ‘In an election I don’t see the SDLP making big ground against the Shinners, but there must be a prospect of some advance from the lows of that year.’

    What areas? The SDLP sem to have already thrown in the towel in Lagan Valley. Where else is there a constructive basis to assume the SDLP might make gains at the expense of SF.

  • middle-class taig

    I’m always amused by this undercurrent common to SDLP/unionist/FF/Irish Independent analysis that SF aren’t nearly as good at negotiation as they claim to be, or everyone else claims them to be.
    It’s pretty clear that an attempt is being made to undermine the view prevalent in the nationalist community that SF will obtain maximal advantage from each phase of negotiations. This is no surprise. However, the way in which it’s currently being done suggests that the people doing it think nationalists are stupid.

    The last 5 or 6 years has seen SF negotiating against:

    – the British government
    – the Irish Government
    – the US Government
    – the Catholic Church
    – the NIO
    – the DUP
    – the UUP
    – the SDLP
    – the PUP
    – the APNI
    – Fine Gael
    – the Irish Labour Party
    – the RUC
    – An Garda Siochana
    – the British Army
    – MI5
    – the British press
    – the Irish press

    To an extent, they’ve also had to contend with constant, legitimate and unopposable opposition from the loved ones of people killed or disappeared by IRA members. Those people have at times been manipulated and used by some or all of the above as extremely effective proxies to weaken SF’s bargaining position, and in a manner quite at odds with how victims within the republican family are treated. Entirely legitimate, but not desperately fair.

    In this context, that SF is still standing, let alone negotiating (more or less, depending on your point of view) effectively, is little short of miraculous. If they get devolution of Policing & Justice in anything remotely like the timeframe being discussed, they’ll have played a blinder. From there, and following good (steady as she goes will be enough) performances in elections, key issues such as Dail representation and OTRs become more achieveable, and a series of storms of unprecedented proportions in Irish politics will have been weathered successfully.

  • CS Parnell

    Poor Sinn Fein og, all (battle) dressed up and nowhere to go.

    Tell me, how can youse tell who is a securocrat and who isn’t? Are the securocrats the ones who sign up to the side deals that let state killers off the hook just so long as a few of the boys get home for Christmas?

    Don’t recall Sinn Fein negotiating against the British state on that one. But, you are right, those sell-out stoops did oppose your squalid little agreement.

    That was the moment the leadership of Sinn Fein staretd to lose it. Suddently they were confronted with the same realities that Hume, Mallon, Logue and Fitt had faced all those years ago – being Robespierre is easy, you never have to compromise.

  • time will tell

    middle class taig is a first class bastard

    blaming the bereaved familys for sinn feins failings is a filthy dirty thing to do.

    your post is also full of lies per usual i might add

    sf did not negotiate against the British government they were on the same side.

    the same goes for
    – the Irish Government
    – the US Government
    – the Catholic Church
    – the NIO
    – the British press
    – the Irish press

    at no time did they negotiate with the following

    – the RUC
    – An Garda Siochana
    – the British Army
    – MI5
    – MI6

    there’s nothing middle class about you, you have no class at all or if any it’s underclass or street filth