Back to Plan A, then..

Which seems to consist of the Secretary of State for Wales etc, Peter Hain, waving a big stick.. Meanwhile Gerry Moriarty, in the Irish Times, has some background [subs req] to the return of the bad cop scenario.

The [London] sources acknowledged that such methods of interpretation are tortuous and beyond the interest of most people but that nonetheless the “converse of Dr Paisley’s response must be true, which is that he would share power if Sinn Féin delivers on policing”.

And that interpretation..

Dr Paisley said last night: “If a government cannot be formed on March 26th because Sinn Féin fails to deliver it will be clear that Sinn Féin alone is to blame.”

While ostensibly negative, London sources said it was also implicit in this response that if Sinn Féin delivers on policing then a restored Northern executive can be formed by the St Andrews Agreement deadline of March 26th.

The Irish Times quotes the Prime Minister’s Chief Spokesman

His chief spokesman told The Irish Times last night: “Dr Paisley’s comments, taken alongside the outcome of the Sinn Féin ardchomhairle at the weekend, confirm the prime minister in his view that it is possible to arrive at a situation where there will be full support for the police and a powersharing executive by March 26th.”

and more from Ian Paisley..

Earlier yesterday Dr Paisley issued a highly guarded positive response to the weekend decision by Sinn Féin to hold an ardfheis on policing on Sunday week.

“The Sinn Féin decision to call their special conference to take a decision on policing is a step forward.

“However it only amounts to movement when there is full delivery on the ground,” he said.

but that

“Any analysis of the motion passed on Saturday allows for several different, if not contradictory, interpretations,” said Dr Paisley, referring to this point.

“The question is do they intend to proceed with offering support to the police and the courts and encouraging their supporters to do so as soon as the motion is passed. The DUP will not be moving until there is full delivery on the ground and the DUP will not be found wanting if there is,” added Dr Paisley.

While SF are pointing to Martin McGuinness’ interpretation of the proposed motion..

Mr McGuinness said: “The question has been asked, if the (ardfheis) motion is passed what does this mean? It means it’s over to you, Ian.”

Making the current Plan A resemble increasingly another round of ‘pass the [blame] parcel’..

One additional point to note. The focus of Peter Hain’s statement is the March 26th deadline.. not the May 2008 target date.

, , ,

  • ingram

    Pete,

    A conditional agreement means Sinn Fein retain the ” pass the blame parcel” until “conditional” changes to acceptance.

    Simple.

    Ingram

  • parcifal

    Given the nature and symbolism of what may be about to take place; namely SF support PSNI I don’t think its right that the DUP ask for “full delivery” pre power-sharing.

    That’s not really in the spirit of the St.AA, which is a twin pillar approach; ie one agrees to support the PSNI, whilst the other agrees to power-sharing… and they kick off together

    Hain’s big stick is a shrewd move under the circumstances.

  • Yokel

    The DUP have little to lose by dragging this out (nor have SF actually) now because it will won’t be so much over to you Gerry or Ian but over to you Gordon.

    Maybe Tony will miss his legacy then Gordon will pick it up in a few months time because the same deal will be there and on one side SF can take the AF decision and the AC not formally confirm it even though its happening on the ground(not working to a DUP agenda) whilst at the same time, the DUP will have the time to test SF bona fides on he ground post the AF (proof agenda) and the AC’s formal confirmation will take a back seat in their eyes as long as the AF says yes and this co-operation on the ground business is working. the AF decision will look fine enough for election time in the South.

    Next thing you know, elections, power sharing towards the end of the year, Gordon steps out of No10 to praise the beginning of devolution again on his watch. Then the next thing will be May 2008.

    No one should estimate how pleased the DUP would be to stick two fingers up to Tony’s and how much Gordon would like to as well.

  • Pól

    Republicans have done everything expected of them and by doing so have changed the political landscape.
    I believe the motion at the ardfheis will be passed, and the forth coming election will reflect
    public support for the leadership and there strategy.

    As for the DUP, they have to show they are willing to share power with the Catholic community. Unfortunately Paisley seems to have lost control of his standard bearers, who would seem to be more interested in digging themselves into a political hole, one that the Dock may have a problem getting them out of.

  • Ian

    Parcifal:

    “Given the nature and symbolism of what may be about to take place; namely SF support PSNI I don’t think its right that the DUP ask for “full delivery” pre power-sharing.

    That’s not really in the spirit of the St.AA, which is a twin pillar approach; ie one agrees to support the PSNI, whilst the other agrees to power-sharing… and they kick off together

    Hain’s big stick is a shrewd move under the circumstances.”

    Parcifal’s right, as long as Sinn Fein Ministers take the oath on the 26th of March and act in accordance with it from that day forth, Sinn Fein will not be in breach of the St Andrew’s Agreement.

    If the DUP cry foul and refuse to nominate on the 26th of March because they haven’t had their ‘testing period’, well that’s a SELF-IMPOSED CONDITION on their participation and they’ll have to get themselves off that hook of their own making.

    Pete B, is that your understanding of the situation or does the phrase ‘self-imposed condition’ only apply to Sinn Fein’s ‘negotiating bottom lines’?

  • parcifal

    Ian,
    Thanks, and I like the way you’ve turned it round, rather than presenting these negotiations as:

    DUP imposes conditions on SF
    to
    DUP SELF-IMPOSED conditions

    Come March 26th, post AF and Elections, we can fully expect MMG to take the ministerial oath, having commited to supporting the PSNI; can we expect Ian Paisley to step up to the plate and commit to power-sharing?

  • Ian

    To follow on from my previous post, Sinn Fein could argue after the passing of the Ard Fheis motion that they can’t start implementing their support the police until they have an electoral mandate to do so.

    This is exactly the DUP’s argument which led to the election being brought forward in the first place. Last time round SF stood on a policy of not supporting the PSNI, so this time they could go into the election stating their intention to reverse that, but NOT ACTUALLY DOING SO until after the votes are in and have been counted i.e. March the 8th.

    By that stage they will know whether or not devolution is to resume later that month, because if the DUP aren’t going into the election clearly stating THEIR intention to enter power sharing on the 26th then there’s no point having the election.

    (The DUP’s own logic suggests that any election in which the DUP HAVEN’T committed to power-sharing would have to be followed by ANOTHER election when the DUP DO decide to get the show on the road.)

    So following the Ard Fheis, Sinn Fein should state that their fulsome support for policing will start once the forthcoming election has mandated them to do so. That is in accordance with the St Andrew’s Agreement which only requires them to sign up to policing and take the oath on the 26th of March.

    That then puts it up to the DUP. If they don’t clearly state their intention to join in power-sharing by the 26th of March, then the election is called off (with all that that entails – see Hain’s recent ‘big stick’ statement).

    If the DUP do declare such an intention then that will cause ructions amongst the party faithful, who won’t like the idea of the ‘testing period’ of SF’s credentials being less than three weeks, so they’ll go into the election hopelessly divided.

    Surely a masterstroke by SF, who have got their bloodletting out of the way at an early stage? The DUP have tried to delay their bloodletting until after the elections but that won’t wash with the British Government as the only reason the election is happening is because the DUP said they needed one in order to give them a mandate to sign up to the St Andrews Agreement and its timetable for power-sharing!

  • Ian

    Parcifal:

    “Thanks, and I like the way you’ve turned it round, rather than presenting these negotiations as:

    DUP imposes conditions on SF
    to
    DUP SELF-IMPOSED conditions”

    I’m just using Pete and Mick’s terminology who described SF’s policy (of requiring a date for devolution of justice powers to be agreed by the DUP before SF sign up to policing) as a ‘self-imposed condition’. Now that SF appear to be fudging that firm requirement, it leaves them free to stitch up the DUP with the full support of the two Governments! (Or rather, the DUP will tie themselves in knots because of their own ‘self-imposed condition’ of requiring a prior ‘testing period’ of SF bona fides, which is NOT an element of the StAA and therefore NOT supported by the 2 Governments.)

  • parcifal

    once again ian, good pragmatic post. One should argue as regards the DUP, that its only the tension that’s keeping them together!

    As Henry94 noted recently, the DUP tactic is to appear united as they rally together by putting pressure and contrary conditions upon SF; remove that and we’ll see what they’re made of, and let the blood-letting commence.

  • páid

    Erm……..considering what this site is all about, maybe “let the blood letting commence” is not the greatest comment.

    The SF motion is a copy of Trimble’s post-dated cheque gambit.

    Didn’t work for him……..

    And the Bearded One knows this……..

  • Pete Baker

    Ian

    Perhaps the most interesting point of the tactics you describe is that they fit ‘the Brolly scenario’

    I’ll not, if you don’t mind, repeat the arguments previously presented in response to your comparisons – they’re in the archives.

    But it’s worth bearing in mind that any target date for devolving policing and justice would always be unenforceable.. as Peter Hain has belatedly acknowledged.

  • Briso

    Posted by parcifal on Jan 16, 2007 @ 01:32 PM

    >Come March 26th, post AF and Elections, we can fully expect MMG to take the ministerial oath, having commited to supporting the PSNI; can we expect Ian Paisley to step up to the plate and commit to power-sharing?

    We can, can’t we? I mean if the executive can be set up without a date for a transfer of P&J powers, why would the DUP not go for it? Perhaps I’m missing something…

  • Ian

    “Perhaps the most interesting point of the tactics you describe is that they fit ‘the Brolly scenario’”

    No, the ‘Brolly scenario’ was trying to fudge the issue by not holding the AF till after the election, much like the DUP are attempting to do in terms of commitment to power-sharing.

    I’m talking about a scenario where SF state at the outset that they are seeking election on the basis of a policy of supporting the PSNI. The implementation of that policy can’t start until they receive the mandate to do so. That then fulfils their AF motion requirement that support for policing shall commence in tandem with the start of power-sharing, since the DUP will have to abandon the fudge approach and commit to power-sharing on the 26th of March IF THE ELECTION IS TO GO AHEAD. (If DUP don’t commit then Hain pulls the plug on the election.) I though Paisley was a straight-talking kinda guy, anyway?

    The other AF motion requirement (the target date for devolution of justice) would appear to have been watered down – I’m arguing on the premise that it has.

    It’s a win-win scenario for SF because the implementation of support for policing will only occur after an election in which the DUP leadership has gone to the electorate on a policy of sharing power with SF on the 26th of March, a policy position that is likely to prove highly divisive amongst the DUP ranks. (SF having cleverly got their bloodletting out of the way before the election campaign proper has commenced.

    The DUP can cry foul about the lack of a ‘testing period’ but that is a ‘self-imposed condition’ of their own making not a requirement of St Andrews. Also, they can’t argue that SF are being unreasonable in going to the polls before implementing their new support for PSNI policy, since that is only being consistent with the DUP’s own logic (the need for a fresh mandate for a major policy reversal) which led to the election in the first place! Unless the DUP are saying that their mandate is more sacred than SF’s, which is going back into 2nd class citizen territory.

  • Pete Baker

    Ian

    “No, the ‘Brolly scenario’ was trying to fudge the issue by not holding the AF till after the election”

    No, the Brolly scenario was ultimately about delaying taking a decision on supporting the police etc until after an election.. and possibly even further ahead.

    The Ard Fheis motion passes that decision back to the Ard Chomhairle.. and the election would be held under conditions were SF, as I said before, were futuring.

    The precondition of a timeframe for devolving policing and justice before SF would implement the AF motion, while watered down in that pass between the AF and the AC, would officially remain to be satisfied.

  • Mick Fealty

    Briso,

    “…if the executive can be set up without a date for a transfer of P&J powers, why would the DUP not go for it? Perhaps I’m missing something…”

    That is certainly what may be on offer… indeed, it may be the most likely outcome…. but, and I am open to correction here, it is not what the motion to be put before the AF actually says…

  • Ian

    “if the executive can be set up without a date for a transfer of P&J powers, why would the DUP not go for it? Perhaps I’m missing something…”

    The stubborn refusal to agree a date for transfer of P&J powers is an attempt to hold the DUP together around a policy that is not based on any logical premise. It’s a trojan horse to get power-sharing up and running, since many of the senior DUP members (the ‘Twelve Disciples’) would like a significant ‘contamination period’ before ANY devolution that is inclusive of SF.

    If you think about it from a logical DUP perspective (if that isn’t an oxymoron!), the ‘community confidence’ for the SDLP or UUP to hold the Justice Ministry will be there long before DUP voters can accept the SF holding the Education Ministry! Fair Deal (a DUP supporter though not a member, I believe) is on record as saying that he personally doesn’t have any problem with devolution of justice, especially since SF won’t get the post.

    Mark Durkan made the point that devolution of justice is neither the panacea that SF make out nor the doomsday scenario that the DUP would have us believe. (Most powers with respect to policing have already been devolved to the Policing Board.)

    Perhaps SF has set up the issue of transfer of justice powers as a ‘trojan horse’ from the outset? Made such a big fuss about it for ages to distract attention away from the progressives in the DUP slowly shifting towards agreement to enter the Executive with SF? Even SF wouldn’t be that cunning, surely?

  • Briso

    Posted by Mick Fealty on Jan 16, 2007 @ 02:56 PM:
    That is certainly what may be on offer… indeed, it may be the most likely outcome…. but, and I am open to correction here, it is not what the motion to be put before the AF actually says…

    Perhaps Mick, but does the Pledge of Office not come into it? The DUP were very keen on that earlier as a sign of SF’s good intentions… If SF take the pledge, why would the DUP not go into an executive they could bring down the day before P&J powers are transferred without their agreement?

    Again it leaves more ‘process’ in the future, but I’m beginning to think it may be with us for quite a while yet!!

  • Ian

    “No, the Brolly scenario was ultimately about delaying taking a decision on supporting the police etc until after an election.. and possibly even further ahead.

    The Ard Fheis motion passes that decision back to the Ard Chomhairle.. and the election would be held under conditions were SF, as I said before, were futuring.”

    We’re in agreement about what the Brolly scenario entailed, I’m talking about a very specific commitment to commence supporting the police (that commitment to be in SF’s election manifesto) but the only ‘futuring’ aspect, as you call it, is that the support would commence as soon as the votes have come in from the elections.

    That’s hardly ‘futuring’, standing for an election and saying “If we’re elected, this is what we’ll do”. I know that the concept of having been ‘elected’ is rather vague when nearly all parties qualify for Executive positions due to the peculiar nature of the institutional set-up (how many MLAs constitutes a mandate for support for the police?) BUT it was the DUP who introduced this notion of requiring an election to get a mandate for a major policy reversal instead of just getting on with it (the preference of most other parties).

    “The precondition of a timeframe for devolving policing and justice before SF would implement the AF motion, while watered down in that pass between the AF and the AC, would officially remain to be satisfied.”

    As I said before, all my arguments are based on the premise that that timeframe requirement is fudged further to the point of dropping out of the equation. If SF can get past that requirement then they have the potential to play a blinder if they proceed on the basis I’ve outlined.

  • Mick Fealty

    Briso,

    You could be right. Ho hum… Exciting isn’t it???? 😉

  • Pete Baker

    Ian

    I don’t disagree that SF could adopt those tactics.

    But, and it’s an important one, the point made previously comes into play about the self-imposed nature of the timeframe demand to be fudged, as you put it.

    That condition was placed on the Executive by the party members in an Ard Fheis.. as I recall the Executive wanted a freer hand – even freer than the one outlined in the new motion.

    As Liam Clarke put it in the Sunday Times, the Executive are now saying to the party membership, ‘trust us’.

    They may use an election to say to that membership, ‘See!’ – but that’s a risky tactic in the longer term.

    And they’ll still have to commit before the Assembly meets – without any enforceable date for policing and justice.

  • parcifal

    well we’re still on course for the AF and March elections; and I just can’t see the process “petering” out when events are so close to the principles agreed in St.Andrews.
    The DUP may be “peterburbed” but what’s new 😉

  • Ian

    Pete,

    I agree that to fudge the issue of “confirmation that policing and justice powers will be transferred” involves a leap of faith but I don’t think the DUP would be able to sustain the argument that the circumstances are not right for the SDLP or UUP to obtain the Justice Ministry whilst the circumstances are right for SF to run the DFM or Education department, for example.

    Paisley’s New Year message wasn’t specific enough for the previous AF position in terms of timescale (“The DUP proposal, while acknowledging that the Assembly needs some time to bed-in, put no restrictions on when the powers could be devolved”) but might be deemed sufficient for the new AF requirement.

    Also, don’t rule out direct rule ministers starting to tinker with criminal justice law in a way that unionists don’t like once the rest of devolution is up and running (“if you don’t like it, take the powers up yourselves” will be the argument). In that context I’m surprised the NIO moved to end 50% remission for dangerous offenders following the Attracta Harron campaign. A more cynical Secretary of State might have left that issue for the devolved government to take up, as and when they take the reins of justice powers.

  • Ian

    Also Pete, if you don’t mind me saying, you seem a lot more concerned with Sinn Fein’s internal machinations and the precise wording of their Ard Fheis motion, than you do about the DUP Executive position, which if followed to the letter would force the DUP to breach the St Andrews timetable.