“The motion has to have some practical effect..”

..is, I would suggest, the key line in the Secretary of State for Wales, etc’s otherwise apparently optimistic comments in the Guardian today. Whether there will be sufficient time to establish that before the required decision on Tuesday, on whether to call an election, remains to be seen. Not least because Sinn Féin have been emphasising the conditionality of that motion – which passes the decision-making power on policing from an Ard Fheis to the Ard Chomhairle – in their attempts to persuade sceptical party members, as in this report on Martin McGuinness’s comments, conditions which are also noted in the Irish Times[subs req]From the PA report on Martin McGuinness’s comments in Lurgan

In the third of a series of meetings across Northern Ireland to consider Sinn Fein`s proposal for republicans to support the police, the Mid-Ulster MP said there was no way he would ask young nationalists to sign up to a British police service.

Mr McGuinness also told more than 200 republicans in Lurgan that Sinn Fein`s opponents would be sorely disappointed if they expected hardline republicans to pose a serious challenge to his party. Mr McGuinness claimed: “Our approach is a conditional approach.

“We have made it quite clear that if the DUP (the Democratic Unionist Party) are not prepared to deliver the Good Friday Agreement, the last point of our motion says that in the event of power-sharing not happening, the two governments would have to move on to Plan B.

Gerry Moriarty in the Irish Times has some numbers, and points to the conditions [subs req]

Up to 3,300 Sinn Féin members are expected to gather in the RDS tomorrow with about 900 of them mandated to vote on the leadership motion calling for endorsement of the PSNI – which would be a historic move designed to pave the way to powersharing government with the DUP, the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP by March.

Based on the general responses to over 100 private and public meetings Sinn Féin leaders held with party members, including IRA members, in the past two weeks they believe that the motion, which has conditional elements, will be passed tomorrow.

The motion leaves it to the ardchomhairle to implement support for the police based on the DUP sharing power and agreeing to the transfer of policing powers to the Northern executive by May next year.

What will be crucial to Sinn Féin maintaining its unity and cohesion is that party president Gerry Adams carries the ardfheis with a sizeable majority, probably of 75 per cent or more, and that no influential party personnel walk out of the ardfheis.

A good time for a reminder that Ed Moloney has already given his thoughts on the outcome

And those conditions again in full

The Ard Chomhairle recommends:

That this Ard Fheis endorses the Ard Chomhairle motion. That the Ard Chomhairle is mandated to implement this motion only when the power-sharing institutions are established and when the Ard Chomhairle is satisfied that the policing and justice powers will be transferred. Or if this does not happen within the St Andrews timeframe, only when acceptable new partnership arrangements to implement the Good Friday Agreement are in place. [added emphasis]

Notably, Peter Hain doesn’t refer to those conditions

“This is political endgame,” Mr Hain said. “It’s a point of both political insecurity and great potential. Each party is eyeballing the other across the divide and wondering whether they will deliver as promised. I believe both will.

“What has occurred in the past 18 months, since the IRA gave up its weapons, [has brought] momentous changes. There has to be delivery [by Sinn Féin now] on policing and the rule of law. The motion has to have some practical effect. I’m convinced that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness want this to work. I’m equally convinced that Ian Paisley wants to be first minister on March 26, but only if there’s delivery on the rule of law.”[added emphasis]

And he probably won’t. After all, he has already conceded that any target date for devolving those powers can only be “a government objective”.. and monitoring of the situation can also be expected.