And around we go again..

With the Secretary of State for Wales, etc, Peter Hain, jumping the gun, so to speak, following the decision last night by the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle to hold an Ard Fheis on 28th January, the Sunday Times picks up on that conditional paragraph in the statement from Gerry Adams and adds some thoughts on the matter which Peter Hain and others will need to consider..From the Sunday Times

Last night’s decision, taken after a marathon six hours of discussion by the party’s ruling ard comhairle, is conditional on power-sharing being restored. It will give the ard comhairle the right to implement the motion after further negotiation when power-sharing is restored, but does not compel it to do so.

This means that the motion must be referred back to the ard comhairle for final ratification even after it is passed at the ard fheis and does not give the Democratic Unionist party the degree of certainty or the testing period they demanded.

Adams used similar tactics to achieve IRA decommissioning. This will allow him to present the motion at the ard fheis as one of trust in the leadership. The Sinn Fein president described the decision as “historic and courageous”, saying that he wanted to replace British ministers with local ones. “Policing can’t be left to unionists, it is non-partisan,” he said. He added that he intended to hold meetings across the country to discuss the issue further.

In addition that conditional paragraph refers to giving “the Ard Chomhairle the responsibility and authority to fully implement all elements of [the motion]”, leaving open the possibility of one, or more, of those elements not being implemented at the same time… but more importantly, the question is now whether the next Ard Chomhairle meeting, to implement the elements of any motion passed by the Ard Fheis on the 28th, will be held before the March 7th election date?

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  • Ingram

    One word. Conditional.

  • dodrade

    On this occasion Ingram has said it all.

  • heck

    conditional or not –it sounds like SF is going to sell out.

    “saying that he wanted to replace British ministers with local ones”

    I was told a few days ago on this site that no matter who the “justice minister” is, decisions will still be made by faceless men in London.

    I’m not a SF member but I would urge all who are to vote no.

  • hurler on the ditch

    ‘I’m not a SF member but I would urge all who are to vote no. ‘

    Yeah, i’m sure that the Shinners voters are defecting by the thousands in light of your exhortation, Heck

    get a grip mate.

  • parcifal

    IMHO, what is fair is the following:

    SF hold AF 28th Jan, AF passes PSNI motion.
    Assembly dissolves ..Jan 30th
    Elections held …7th March
    Assembly reconvened ..26th March.

    The key for me is this:
    On March 26th SF implements fully the AF motion, and the DUP agree to share power, and take seats.
    They are the twin pillars.
    Now I assume DUP and SF to be major parties.

    The tricky point is:

    SF will need to fence well in the run up to March 26th, as some in the DUP, not all, will insist their is delivery NOW, ( Jan 28th onwards )whereas SF and I’m sure HMG will steer the process into PSNI support happening 26th March;seems to me waht GA is going for

    Now this leaves the “testing period” till May 2008 for tranfer of P & J powers; and this begins the moment DUP and SF share power.
    I’d be happy with that, and think all sides should compromise to that effect to secure the Deal this Easter, and do the tranfer next Year.

  • Rubicon

    What’s all this about SF being required to meet deadlines? Are these targets perhaps?

    Lord! Give me breath!

    Surely it all depends on confidence building and conditions on the ground? 😉

    What’s good for one side is good for the other. It’s just bad for political progress but was this bi-partisan battle ever likely to produce much else?

    In terms of delivery (conditions, targets and deadlines aside) the next date is the 28th January. Get passed that and its the election hustings where the DUP will be under pressure to say whether they’ll enter a power-sharing government with SF. They could be running out of excuses – or – delivering a shrewd negotiating strategy. We’re not far from finding out which it is.

    SF will be under pressure to commit to the ministerial oath.

    The electorate will be left with obfuscating from both sides and all this to the hum of the nay-sayers (on both sides) demanding specific conditions be met.

    The conditionality of the SF motion I read more along the lines of GA not allowing himself to be boxed in to such a weak negotiating position again. The DUP stand to have the more immediate pressure (post 28th) – that of committing to power-sharing. It is the DUP who have made the arguments for postponing any P&J response until delivery is evident. It’s a fair enough position to take – but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how SF can exploit that in the short term to move the focus away from P&J (something they need to do – it hasn’t played well for them) to put the spotlight on power-sharing.

    Though some believe there’s little sign of division within the DUP on the power-sharing issue – I beg to differ. It’s a difference in assessment but as for muting the possibility – it is less politically motivated than based on whether you rely on deductive or inductive reasoning – or a combination of both. Time will tell and we’re not going to have to be that patient before the realities become clear.

    I once heard a RTE journalist outside Castle Buildings doing a sound test say, “Good evening from the NI talks process otherwise known as Groundhog Day!”. Never a truer word was said – still true 9 years later – but perhaps we’re near approaching the situation of seeing an end to it.

    Churchill (of all people) may have the most apposite quote, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

  • Gerry & the peacemakers

    I’m sure you all remember Jim Molyneaux saying the IRA cessation was the most destablising event for unionism since the formation of the state (or words to that effect). It is plainly obvious that the thought of republicans inside the policing tent sends panic within unionism.

    Over the next two weeks the DUP will come out with all types of colourful and provocative language. If they want SF bought into policing why would they do this? They don’t.

    To the traditionalist republicans who oppose the move I would say – look at your areas, without an accountable civic police service your people are destined to live as second class citizens. Your instincts to say no are understandable but it is your communities that are losing out.

  • without an accountable civic police service

    Many Republicans doubt that we have that, they also wonder if such a senario is even possible within the current context.

  • parcifal

    we’re not really sure if Paisley insists on delivery before power-sharing, or delivery before tranfer of powers.
    If its the former we got a deal, if the latter things will really get tricky.

  • parcifal

    sorry got that the wrong way round, shows how fiddly this “conditions” on both sides is to grasp. apologies.

  • Ingram

    Parcifal, Gerry &Peace,Rubicon.

    You all make some very interesting points.

    This is the basis for Sinn Fein`s support as outlined in the motion to be put to the AF delegates.A big Thank You to Chris Gaskin for that.

    http://gaskinbalrog.blogspot.com/

    1. Support for the PSNI and the criminal justice system.

    2. Hold the police and criminal justice systems north and south fully to account, both democratically and legally, on the basis of fairness and impartiality and objectivity.

    3. Authorise our elected representatives to participate in local policing structures in the interests of justice, the quality of life for the community and to secure policing with the community as the core function of the PSNI and actively encouraging everyone in the community to co-operate fully with the police services in tackling crime in all areas and actively supporting all the criminal justice institutions.

    4. The devolution of policing and justice to the Assembly.

    5. Equality and human rights at the heart of the new dispensation and to pursue a shared future in which the culture, rights and aspirations of all are respected and valued, free from sectarianism, racism and intolerance.

    The testing time is a fairly long one, given the above committment by Sinn Fein to support the police and other agencies within the CJS it seem clear to me that the DUP have if they choose to use it a big stick to beat the shinners with.

    The DUP will test the Sinn Fein commitment outlined above will be tested on a number of issues:

    1. Robert MccARTNEY

    2. Inquiries North and South

    3. Northern Bank.

    4. Bobby Story abduction

    5. HET inquiries

    etc .The list is endless.

    This would seem to be a one way street for Sinn Fein.

    On the plus side. It seems Sinn Fein have dropped the line in the sand argument advanced by G Kelly on the hearts and minds program recently about NO inquiries into the past.

    The following is a direct quote

    The truth about wrongdoing by British military, intelligence and policing agencies needs to be uncovered and acknowledged. Sinn Féin supports the demands for this from the families of victims. unquote

    That support for the families ( all) will now see them get FULLY and TESTED behind the Finucane family, the Wright family,The Stakeknife victims, the Breen and Buchannon victims etc.

    It seems to me that Sinn Fein are doing their best to convince the DUP, lets hope the DUP are in a charitable mood.

    Ingram

  • Rubicon

    Martin – I’m in no doubt politicians here will hang their washing out on the issues you raise – and a good deal more. Some already have and SF look like they are about to extend the menu.

    I’m far from convinced that nationalist parties are prepared to dig in on these issues. Dissidents aside, nationalist parties are in near 100% agreement (but – let’s see how they do March 7th) on the need to move forward and for them the matters you raise are business to be addressed – not deal breakers. I’m not at all sure that unionism has a coherent party policy on this. For some is seems they are conditions for progress – as you say – but others I believe are likely to adopt a more real-politic approach. Unionism cannot ignore the wider UK arena and they have a lot of British hearts and minds to win over if they want what you suggest.

    SF are in trouble at the moment – but it looks like they’re digging themselves out of their self-made hole. There’s no sign that the SDLP or SF are divided on delivering devolution (for all the veiled threats of ‘Plan B’). If there ever was a ‘pan-nationalist front’ – devolution is it.

    Unionism does not have a ‘pan-unionist front’ and is far from getting one – despite recent DUP success. Unionists divided on devolution weakens unionist influence within devolution. Remember Donaldson? Remember the DUP revolving ministers? Now – think of d’Hondt working with unionists divided on power sharing with SF. D’Hondt is based on party seats towing a party line.

    Before you can ask members tow a line – you need a line. Do you think unionists en-masse will ‘tow’ the conditions you’ve posted? I have my doubts.

    PS – appreciate you posting an issue of substance without your “Ding Dong”. Keep it up! 😉

  • Ingram

    Rubicon,

    Your arguments are persuasive, that said we are dealing with a party (DUP) that is not as divided as many would like to think.The opposite is true of Sinn Fein.You only have to look at Chris Gaskins post above.

    quote Many Republicans doubt that we have that, they also wonder if such a senario is even possible within the current context unquote.

    I have reservations about an election at this time. If you take the two principle parties, both have a potential to lose ground and if that was to happen then we really do have a dogs dinner.

    That must be a concern to all.

    Ingram.

    PS. The offending slogan is on cessation of hostilities untill the AF.

  • Having concerns does not make for a “divided” party.

    Republicans will thrash out the problems and then come to a common consenus.

    As we have always done.

  • Ingram

    Chris,

    Yes,

    But you will lose more MLA`s than the DUP will! in making a common concensus.

    If you contrast the letters page in the Newsletter to the Letters page in the Irish News it is clear who is experiencing the greatest difficulties arriving at a concensus.

    Indeed yourself on your excellent site made this point only a few days ago about Mr Adams reasons for publishing the words which formed a so called arrangement with the DUP :

    quote It is clear however that the leadership had not expected the amount of opposition from the grassroots on this issue. They are publishing this statement to show the grassroots membership and voters that they were not sold a pup by the Brits and DUP.unquote

    That is clear Chris.

    Martin

  • But you will lose more MLA`s than the DUP will! in making a common concensus

    I don’t believe so. Nothing that I have written suggests a “divided” party in the sense that you mean.

    Yes, many Republicans have concerns about what the Ard Chomhairle are suggesting and I am one of those. That being said the Ard Chomhairle realise that those concerns exist.

    That is why the next few weeks will be devoted to internal and external debate about the entire Policing issue.

  • Rubicon

    Martin – I agree, both parties (DUP & SF) could loose ground. I’m far from convinced that this would make a dog’s diner of the process – though the potential is undoubtedly there. For it to be realised – what would need to happen?

    Any assessment (sadly) needs to look at the 2 blocs separately – leaving the middle ground as bit players. Myself, and other posters, think the middle ground are in serious trouble in March. On this – I’d love to be proven wrong – but, for the moment let’s look at the blocs.

    Unionism. Division exists – though not yet evident in politicians voting with their feet. The grounds for division have been more articulately expressed by the 12 apostles (and others) than I could have insight to. Even if they are just differences in tactics (which I don’t believe) the decisions required on March 26th will need made – or rejected. The electorate wouldn’t be being unreasonable in asking which option unionist parties and candidates propose. Elections aren’t the best environments for creative ambiguity – though it has played well so far.

    However, opposition to the DUP (within unionism) at this time appears hopelessly incompetent. On one side the UKUP led by McCartney hasn’t garnered votes even when some of the electorate agree with McCartney. His objectionable-self destroyed what representation he got in the first Assembly mandate – leading to the UKUP fighting over filing cabinets and office space. He reduced himself to a one-man party. Hauling in the likes of Pauline Armitage hasn’t proven a vote winner either. His disdain for the problems in working class unionist areas is more than clear. It sounds like “I did OK – so FU!”. To the DUP’s ‘right’ rests little real threat.

    It’s difficult to think of the DUP having much of a left flank. Empey signing up with loyalism for no gain just reminded everyone of what a hopeless bunch of cretins they are. The UUP have not yet proposed a different strategy to the DUP’s – so the DUP should have little to worry about there.

    BUT – the DUP are not looking like a team singing off the same hymn sheet. Differences supposed now are likely to cause problems in an election and internal divisions quietly spoken now may find themselves expressed more clearly. Elections kind of bring these things about – thank God they do. Democracy relies on it. Transfers can be effected.

    Nationalism. To SF’s right sit dissidents that have yet to advance a way forward and the few candidates proposing to go forward at the moment could hardly agree on the time of day – apart from continued lawlessness. I doubt they’ll get a single seat – but they may well tilt the balance to the SDLP’s advantage in some constituencies. Since the SDLP and SF policy are in agreement on making the GFA work – these changes are unlikely to cause any long-term damage – either to nationalism or to either of the 2 parties. What the SDLP might gain SF could compensate elsewhere. SF are unlikely to loose their leading position.

    The potential for a dog’s dinner seems to point to DUP risk. Can they play creative ambiguity and remain united through an election campaign? Perhaps they can. Come 26th of March though they are required to make a decision – ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If they’re hoping SF will provide an excuse – recent events suggest otherwise.

    The DUP are playing their cards very close to their chest. Candidate selections for the election have yet to occur – while all other parties are moving ahead. Lack of evidence of splits within the DUP needs to consider this. Look at the list of MLA’s now known not to be standing (or de-selected and perhaps standing on a new ticket):

    D. Ervine (PUP), Cathy Stanton (SF), D. Trimble (UUP), S. Farren (UUP), P Lewsley (SDLP), D. Nesbitt (SDLP), E. Bell (APNI) S. Close (APNI), M. Fergusson (SF), J. Wilson (UUP), G. Dougan (SF), T. O’Reilly (SF), P. McGuigan (SF) and deselects; D. Hyland (SF), P. O’Rawe (SF) E. McNeminan (SDLP).

    (Apologies for any name spelling errors!)

    For those who think the absence of DUP members from the above list demonstrates unity – I offer you my best wishes but suggest your focus on what you know may need to be balanced by what has been organised so that you don’t.

  • Rubicon

    Dermot Nesbitt is UUP not SDLP

  • Rubicon

    I KNEW I’d make a daft error like that and thought twice before trying to recall the list.I need to review my posts before posting! (Just given myself 100 lines!)

    I know Nesbitt is UUP. God! The man can bore for Ireland. Do you think something in my sub-conscious had me designating him SDLP?

    To be clear; Dermot Nesbit of the UUP will not be standing in South Down this year. While Donaldson (Snr.) will no doubt welcome this move, UUP voters will now be challenged to find someone as dynamic!

  • Ingram

    Rubicon.

    Very intersting read. Thank You.

    We can agree to disagree. Good night.

    Chris,

    Like wise we can agree to disagree. I am firmly convinced of the potential for a major split in Sinn Fein after all once they sign up to BCJS they no longer be regarded as Republicans .

    On this issue me and Tony Blair would agree! that is a genuine seismic move.

    Ingram

  • Ian

    “that conditional paragraph refers to giving “the Ard Chomhairle the responsibility and authority to fully implement all elements of [the motion]”, leaving open the possibility of one, or more, of those elements not being implemented at the same time…”

    If I may speculate on this point for a while…

    First off, comprehensive support for the Gardai and other justice institutions in the Republic can be implemented immediately, as there is no danger of those falling out of Irish accountability. The electoral benefit for SF in the south from this move can thus be realised.

    In terms of the north, it might be that a distinction is made between those elements that are in theory reversible, and those that cannot credibly be reversed.

    For example, they could crack on with full support for the PSNI on the ground (and encouraging same from the nationalist community) – such support can be withdrawn at a later date. Joining the accountability structures (Policing Board and local DPPs) falls into that category as they could withdraw from these bodies (following the fine principled examples set by the UUP and DUP after Whiterock 2005).

    However, what couldn’t credibly be reversed is a recommendation by SF for young nationalists to enrol for the PSNI. Former Belfast Mayor Martin Morgan, shortly before he left the SDLP, tried to reverse party policy on supporting the PSNI (I believe this followed an incident in the Ardoyne with the police enforcing an Orange Order march through the area). However, this would have meant the SDLP abandoning all those recent nationalists PSNI recruits, who they had spent the previous two years encouraging to join up to the police as a long-term career choice. That was simply not credible (as Mark Durkan no doubt pointed out to Morgan who duly left the party).

    So Sinn Fein might adopt the position that, until there is a fixed timetable and guarantee of full local accountability of the PSNI (i.e. agreed date for devolution of justice), they couldn’t recommend that nationalists start applying to join the police. That is not to say that individuals aren’t free to join if they wish – but it probably reflects the reality on the ground in any case. i.e. nationalists recruitment to the PSNI will be slow to take off regardless of what SF say, it will only increase gradually as confidence in the police service increases, and devolution of justice powers away from the hands of British ministers will play a major part in increasing that confidence.

  • Ian

    A question: How would DUP and SF supporters feel about a trade-off whereby the March 07 deadline for resumption of power-sharing is delayed to, say, the autumn (to allow for a longer ‘testing period’ of SF’s practical support for policing and therefore ease the internal pressures in the DUP ranks), combined with an agreed date for devolution of justice powers of May 08? (i.e. agreed by the DUP and SF at the outset, prior to the election)

    From SF’s perspective, the most important of the two dates seems to be the May 08 one, as they are making great play of the fact that the police must be locally accountable if SF are to support them.

    And from the DUP’s perspective, this is a more neat solution than their current confused, mixed message policy whereby it’s not clear if the ‘testing period’ should apply to devolution of justice only or to any devolution involving SF (depends whose utterances from the DUP camp you listen to).

    Logically, surely the devolution of justice to a non-SF Minister (the agreed ‘modality’) should be less problematic for the DUP than devolution of the DFM or other portfolios to SF? i.e. at the point when the DUP consider that SF have passed the ‘community confidence’ test to gain the Education Ministry, allowing devolution to commence, then why at that same point don’t the SDLP or UUP pass the ‘community confidence’ test to gain the Justice Ministry?

    By making this suggestion now I’m just trying to save a lot of faffing around as it’ll probably be the basis of eventual agreement between the two parties, after a few more months of the ongoing slanging match.