So the Sinn Fein Ard Comhairle has spoken. The re-worded motion, if passed, would remove all power of discretion from the party’s conference body (the Ard Fheis) to the party’s executive (the Ard Comhairle). The question remains whether Sinn Fein is simply representing the same old insoluable conumdrum in a new form, or giving itself (and Blair) a ‘now get out of that’ clause. As Pete has previously noted, conditionality resides in both the party’s top and bottom line. They will back the police, but:
…only when the power-sharing institutions are established and when the Ard Chomhairle is satisfied that the policing and justice powers will be transferred.
No mention of timeframes. But here’s an interesting view from London (possibly, though not certainly, from inside Number 10):
A senior London source appeared sanguine about this element of the motion, stating that “the clear understanding” was that as soon as such an ardfheis motion was passed Sinn Féin would provide demonstrable support for the police.
Yet, under the St Andrews arrangements, the British government is not in a position to arbitrate on such matters, if it is to meet SF’s previously rigid timelining requirement. However, this Sinn Fein motion appears to give the leadership scope to fudge the timeline.
In which case the acid test London has in mind may simply be whether Martin McGuinness is then in a position to take the ministerial oath:
(cd) to uphold the rule of law based as it is on the fundamental principles of fairness, impartiality and democratic accountability, including support for policing and the courts as set out in paragraph 6 of the St Andrews Agreement;”.
But can “power-sharing institutions” be established before Martin takes that oath of office? Or, if not, what acid test have the British got in mind?