IN a grumpy assessment of the policing debate, Eric Waugh expresses doubts about the long-term success of devolution. After all is said and done, the purse strings are still held by Westminster, and Waugh reckons the very limited form of government Stormont provides (where agreement on bread and butter issues was often difficult in the past) will be ineffective. Given our politicians legendary ability to avoid real politics, will a weak government be better than none if the big issues are avoided, others turn into sectarian headcounts and everything else is in permanent consultation? Wouldn’t you love to be surprised, like that time the Policing Board sorted out the new PSNI badge in a flash?Waugh pessimistically wrote:
There is one grave drawback to this preening of his green credentials by an ambitious politician. It describes an inoperable theory of government. Northern Ireland remains part of the British state. Its taxation and administration are, and after devolution would remain, in the ultimate, British-controlled. Vitally, it is the same with the police. It is British law they enforce. Anyone whose memory goes back as far as 1968-69 can be in no doubt where ultimate sovereignty resides in Northern Ireland; and – even under devolution – it is not at Stormont.
This is why the police thing is so delicate. For Sinn Fein, acceptance of the police involves acceptance of the British state in a new, broader dimension. By backing the police, they back the agency whose principal remit is to maintain British law and order in this part of the United Kingdom. That is why I remain pessimistic about the long-term prospect for resumed devolution under the current Agreement.
There was another similarly downbeat offering from Tom Kelly in the Irish News last week, but I couldn’t find it. In a not dissimilar tone, he was bemoaning the negative impact the peace process had on politics. But mustn’t grumble too much.