Will we have power sharing?

Great discussion between Chris Thornton and Mike Smyth on the possibilities of getting a deal… who do a great job in holding down an irascible Michael McMillan as chair… Rare occasion on which heat co-exists with light!!

  • Patrique

    I talked about a power sharing DUP/Sinn Fein back in 1994, as they agreed on most things, except then they were both anti anything to move us forward. But the whole thing has been carefully planned and choreographed for nearly 20 years, so of course they will do a deal. WOULDN’T HAVE HAD AN ELECTION OTHERWISE.
    Why do you think Big Ian had to be dragged from “retirement”? Robinson couldn’t have carried it off but not too many are going to call Ian a lundy.

    Then he can retire soon, once the deal is done.

  • Rubicon

    Autumn they say?

    Not for me – and not for the vast majority that voted on Wednesday at the DUP’s demand.

    If they’re not ready now – they will never be. How long do we have to wait to ensure the DUP don’t split?

    I can understand the “economic package” since it is nothing less than a symbolic effort pretending politics here had nothing to do with the taxes we now face. Both the DUP and SF need to market this fiction.

    The fact is that both the DUP and SF destroyed the economy and today the electorate said that was OK. So – people – dig deap in your pockets, stop your whinging, be growm-up and take responsibility and tell those who can’t pay the cause. Wasn’t it a worthwhile cause?

  • Rory

    Thanks, Mick, I enjoyed that broadcast.

    Two very astute comments followed from Patrique and Rubicon. Tonight’s Radio 4 10pm news slot confirmed (for me at least) most of their observations in large measure.

    I have already suggested this to Pete on another thread and I look forward to his response but I anticipate resistance to my understanding of this will follow.

    You asked in an earlier thread of how the concept of being a unionist might disappear. I suspect if Pete and I ever get to agree then the concept of both unionism and republicanism will have, as in Lenin’s concept of the state, withered, atrophied, and blown away on the breeze of progress.

    But by that time I suppose our old dusty bones will have done the same. Let us hope not.

  • Harris

    “Will we have power sharing?”

    Well, it seems as though the DUP are going to use Michele Gildernew’s words (about not reporting dissident IRA activity) to reinforce their objection on sharing power with Sinn Fein. This seems to be a major sticking point with Jeffrey Donaldson


  • Perhaps the simple truth could be that Big Ian’s belief system, particularly his faith PREVENTS him from doing a deal.

    In that sense BI isnt a politician like Adams or Empey and therein may contain the kernel of his long standing appeal to the good god fearing folk of Ballymena.

    If he does a deal he stops being who he is.

    A big ask at 80.

    Does anyone really know what Plan B will look like?

  • circles

    Yes there’ll be a deal, and I believe that yes there’ll be econimic pressure and advantage that will, yes, eventually lead to a united Ireland. The big 2 have been playing the prisoners dilemma long enough for iteration effects to start kicking in (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner's_dilemma). The mutual benefits of a strong northern voice in an all Ireland economy are much too strong for the DUP to ignore. The electorate are well aware of this and in my opinion have voted accordingly. That famous northern protestant pragmatism is kicking in and we’ll all be off to dublin in the green soon enough (of course in a federal republic).

  • Axe

    A goodness me, what a setup! As I am currently at uni in England I am being forced to watch events unfold from afar, but as ever, riveting viewing! Big Brother simply isn’t a patch on Northern Irish politics!

    I must say that some comments from the DUP camp have amused me. When will they finally just bite the bullet and share power? Firstly there was Peter Robinson’s classic, telling Sinn Féin to, “get on with it and stop dragging their feet”. Not so much a case of pot calling kettle black as grass calling sky green.

    BI chirped up announcing that he would be prepared to talk to Sinn Féin on the condition that they declared themselves “for democracy”. Where does he keep getting these demands from? Surely if Sinn Féin are as inextricably linked to the IRA as he has always claimed, then the IRA’s statement last year calling for their arms to be laid down, that they believed their aims could be best achieved by democratic means, should suffice.

    Simply, IP has pumped the unionist population so much with mistrust of Sinn Féin that he realises that he will have to appear to be dragged kicking and screaming into power sharing with them before it will be accepted.

    I can’t deny that I am worried about the prospect of a man who once said, “Catholic homes caught fire because they were loaded with petrol bombs; Catholic churches were attacked and burned because they were arsenals and priests handed out sub-machine guns to parishioners”, is on the verge of becoming First Minister of NI.

    I amuse myself from time to time by looking at IP Jr’s personal website. It’s heavy going, let me tell you. But occasionally one turns up such gems as:

    “The Republican machine has been stopped in its tracks. The goal of a United Ireland has been stopped by the DUP – there will not be a united Ireland! The IRA must not only give up their guns, but also end their criminality, disband their illegal organisation, support the police in a real and practical manner, support the Royal Courts of Justice and accept the rule of British law. To pretend that a republican can do any of these things and still be a republican is just nonsense. Republicans are being forced to change, to eat their words and they along with the Government must deliver to the DUP’s satisfaction. Without delivery Sinn Fein will not be able to move in any direction.”

    It seems that the DUP has singlehandedly dismantled the whole idea of republicanism!

    It is my opinion, although perhaps this is just wishful thinking, that this is the DUP’s last chance to deliver for Unionists. Surely if they do not now accept their mandate for power sharing (and lets face it, there can’t have been that many people who voted DUP without considering that power sharing was certainly a distinctly possible outcome), then it is time for Unionism to look elsewhere for leadership.

  • Axe

    For fear of being rejected for lack of sources:



    http://www.ipjr.net/ (News; February 2007; “Only the DUP can save the union)

  • páid

    Apologies for a thread hijacking but I was studying a London Times diagram of the average position of Michael Carrick in a football match and it struck me that it might me interesting to compute the average location of NI voters and how it might have shifted over the years.

  • Belfastwhite


    Just got back from the SLF concert tonight and feeling a little inebriated. I made the mistake of trying to read your Prisoners_dilema link. Half way through it reminded me of an old puzzle my father used to put to us as children.

    A prisoner was on death row but the governor thought he could be innocent. He brought him to a room with two doors one led to freedom the other to the gas chamber. There was a screw on each door. The prisoner was told that one screw always told the truth and the other always lied. Both screws only knew who told the truth and both knew which door led to freedom. The prisoner was told he could ask one question only to either man to find out which door led to freedom.

    After thinking for a few minutes the prisoner got up and asked a question to one of the screws. When he got the answer he was 100% certain he was walking through the door to freedom.

    What question did he ask?

  • John Farrell

    it actually does not matter if we have power sharing or not.
    since 1998 there has really only been one outcome possible….heads one side wins, tails other side loses
    whether its plan A B C D E or Z republicans believe they are holding a betting docket with “each way” on it…in a two horse race.

    we now have two very different societies here, coming full circle from 1968.
    back then the political elite did not reflect civic society.
    same now….loads of catholics but women represented only effectively on one side of the divided plitical house.
    SF strategy is double edged…..sure it will co-operate in governing but the real object is to chip away at unionist confidence.
    it can be done inside and outside Stormont.

  • Spinster

    Ian Paisley has made a career out of predicting disaster for Unionism and ensuring it happens. He will insist that Plan B is implemented by blocking power sharing. He pretends not to know that plan B is very acceptable to the SDLP, and to the Provisionals, who need to cement Unionism’s reputation as unreasonable anti-catholic bigots to sustain their electoral growth in the Republic.

    The successful portrayal of Unionists as anti-catholic bigots also ensures that they can never again be strongly backed by a UK government responsive to the british electorate. i.e. Irish Unionism as a serious UK political movement is over.

    Happy retirement.

  • DMCM

    I think that the SDLP and the UUP should pull out of Stormont immediately and demand a referendum and leave the DUP and Sinn Fein to it.
    The idea behind this agreement was to bring about moderate thinking with the electorate to ensure power sharing. The opposite has occurred.
    If the UUP and the SDLP stay in Stormont they are only confirming that they are the understudies of the DUP and Sinn Fein.

  • German-American

    Re belfastwhite’s puzzle: This is one I remember from my days of reading books on recreational logic, and was able to reconstruct the solution. Note that belfastwhite supplied the key to the puzzle: “Both screws only knew who told the truth and both knew which door led to freedom.” The question the prisoner asks must exploit both these facts.

    So, without further ado, the question to ask is: “If I ask the other screw if your door leads to freedom, will he say ‘yes’ or ‘no’?”

    There are four possible cases to consider:

    1. The prisoner is asking the question of the truthful screw, and his door leads to freedom. The screw knows that the other screw knows that the door leads to freedom, and also knows that the other screw will lie about it. So when asked the screw will truthfully say that the other screw will lie and say “no”.

    2. The prisoner is asking the question of the truthful screw, and his door does not lead to freedom. Again, the screw knows that the other screw knows that the door doesn’t lead to freedom, and also knows that the other screw will lie about it. So when asked the screw will truthfully say that the other screw will lie and say “yes”.

    3. The prisoner is asking the question of the lying screw, and his door leads to freedom. The screw knows that if asked the other screw would truthfully say “yes, it does lead to freedom”, but the lying screw will instead claim that the other screw will say “no”.

    4. The prisoner is asking the question of the lying screw, and his door does not lead to freedom. The screw knows that if asked the other screw would truthfully say “no, it doesn’t lead to freedom”, but the lying screw will instead claim that the other screw will say “yes”.

    So if the screw’s answer to the prisoner’s question is “no”, the prisoner will know that he’s dealing with one of cases 1 or 3, where the door leads to freedom, and he’ll walk through that door. On the other hand if the screw’s answer is “yes” the prisoner will know that he’s dealing with one of cases 2 or 4, where the door does not lead to freedom, and he’ll walk through the other door.

    If you like this sort of thing, a great book is Raymond Smullyan’s What is the Name of This Book?.

    Now, what does this have to do with Northern Ireland politics? Well, for one thing it illustrates the knots one can get tied into if you assume that everything your opponent says is a lie. Of course, things get even more fun if you assume your opponents lies half the time and tells the truth half the time. I’ll leave off with an Amazon reviewer’s comment on Smullyan’s book:

    At the end of the book, you are presented with the ultimate level of complexity where not only do half the people always lie and half tell the truth, and not only do they use the words “boo” and “da” for yes and no (without you knowing which is which), but half of the population is also insane which means that whatever is true, they BELIEVE the opposite. So an insane liar always inadvertently tells the truth because what they believe is false…and then they lie about it.

    I leave it to readers to supply their own identifications of the “insane liars”, “sane truthtellers”, and other groups in the context of Northern Ireland.

  • (Slightly hungover) Belfastwhite

    German American

    A simpler answer would be to ask either screw “If I asked him which door leads to freedom, which door would he choose?” Whatever door he points to is the wrong door. You must go out the other.

    If you ask the screw who always tells the truth he knows the other screw lies and will point to the wrong door. You must choose the opposite.

    If you ask the screw who always lies he knows the other screw will point to the correct door but he always lies so he will point to the wrong door. Again you choose the opposite.

    Thanks for the book link might get it for my dad to repay him for a childhood full of puzzles like the one above.

  • Greenflag


    Re your ‘screw analogy’ you may have hit the nail on the head 🙂

    Northern Ireland in it’s present format is screwed anyway . The only question is what will replace it and when . Has Paisley led his ‘chosen’ people for 40 years denouncing the tribe of Goth only to now tell the chosen people that the tribe of Goth are now to minister over them because that’s where their Messiah has led them ? Can Paisley the politician overcome Paisley the preacher ? Will Mammon win as the Golden Calf is shared or will Paisley lead his chosen people back up the mountain to have some more words with yer man who talks out of a burning bush !

    Election 2007 – The end of an error ?

    John Farrell
    ‘it actually does not matter if we have power sharing or not. ‘

    From an outside perspective true except of course for the political reputation of Tony Blair and to a lesser extent that of Bert Ahern .

  • Henry94

    I am 100% certain that we will have power-sharing and the institutions running by the end of the month.

    I can see no logical reason for the DUP choosing any other course.

  • Dewi

    Mick – wonderful site. Enjoyed last few days no end. Intensity is incredible. In Wales we could only get 50% to vote on our constitutional future and in the forthcoming elections will be lucky to get 40% turnout. Mind you, our last troubles were in 1405 !!!

  • Greenflag


    ‘I can see no logical reason for the DUP choosing any other course.’

    The Party of God is not always logical:) It would be foolish to underestimate Paisley’s religious convictions . We can laugh at them or make jokes about them but I would not underestimate them . Paisley is trapped between the proverbial Rock of Ages and worship of the Golden Calf . A pair of deuces you might say

    In comparison Adams and McGuiness are sitting on a full house !

  • German-American

    Belfastwhite: Thanks for pointing out the somewhat simpler solution to the ‘prisoner and the screws’ problem. However I should note that my version has the virtue of being generalizable to any question for which a “yes” or “no” question is appropriate. For example: “Mr. Adams, if I asked Ian Paisley whether a deal will be done by March 26, what would he answer?” (And vice versa)

  • Harris

    Regarding whether or not Paisley will accept devolution, this from the “Times.”

    “Mr Hain must have privately accepted that Mr Paisley’s pride would not allow him to be seen to have jumped to a Westminster command.

    There is also the question of how long a “quarantine period” he can get away with imposing on Sinn Fein before he can safely declare that it is no longer “IRA/Sinn Fein”.

    We should not be surprised when Mr Hain changes his mind and some face-saving measure is rushed through Westminster to allow for the selection of “shadow” ministers to the executive to be appointed by March 26 while more time is given to the process.”


    “I am 100% certain that we will have power-sharing and the institutions running by the end of the month.”

    Your opinion has to be respected, but how will the DUPers look to their constituency if they decide to enter into power sharing, after telling them for the past year that, Sinn Fein need more quarantine time before being considered “fit” for government?

    You don’t think the above scenario (emergency legislation) is possible?

  • Belfastwhite

    German American

    Why complicate things by making a yes/no answer a precondition! The objective was to get out the right door. This only required one screw to point in the right or in this case wrong direction. Something that may be useful in the office of FM and DFM where I bet there will not be a lot of conversation taking place.

    If the Assembly isn’t up and running by the end of the month I say shut up shop, stop the salaries and use the savings to upgrade the water system thus ending the need for water charges. Does anyone agree?

  • Henry94


    I think that if they don’t go in by the end of the month they won’t go in at all. And if they don’t then the assembly should either proceed without them (unlikely) or close for good.

  • Macarius

    Will we have power sharing?


    Why not?

    Becaudse most people don’t really want it. Unionists and the Nationalist middle-class are content with the job direct rule ministers are doing.

    The 2007 Assembly was yet another big pissing contest and, as we all knew, Ian has he biggest and wee Martin is happy to show his followers that he’s willing to bring up the rear.

  • Harris


    “I think that if they don’t go in by the end of the month they won’t go in at all. And if they don’t then the assembly should either proceed without them (unlikely) or close for good.”

    I think the DUP feel they have nothing to fear from a “plan B”, which is why they just might see the date come and go, while at the same time, getting their quarantine period fulfilled to save face.

  • lib2016

    Unionism has been in decline for years. A fact which Paisley has never been slow to point out, just as he has never denied that he is an Irishman and that his loyalty to the British Crown is conditional.

    To Orangemen and Paisleyites the current administration in Britain is led by a traitor who is married to a Romanist. Moreover the heir to the Throne has publicly denied his committment to Protestantism by announcing his intention to be ‘Protector of all the Faiths’.

    Middleclass unionists may fool themselves that their loyalty is to a version of Major’s ‘Back to Basics’ but that world is gone forever as the gales of laughter at Major’s speech showed.

    I listened to a lot of DUP speeches over the election and didn’t hear very many claims to a ‘British’ identity but instead frequent references to a ‘Pratistint community’ which is apparently feeling very disadvantaged. The Party which did try to use the ‘simply British’ formula collapsed some time ago – unionists by and large aren’t fools and they know selfserving hypocrisy when they hear it.

  • Ca Va

    I am certaim he Doc is up for it. Would help if motormouth Gilderfew took a long holiday somewhere far away with no phones

  • Blow-in

    Problem with the big post, so putting this on here!

    Niki, I shared your confusion when working in West Belfast a few years ago. Coming from Scotland and with broad Labour /Scottish Nationalist sympathies (probably the most common Scottish view, though the party activists of SNP and Labour are implacable foes) the SDLP seemed the obvious choice in 2001 as I lived in South Belfast, they were the strongest nationalist party in the area, they were affiliated to the European Socialist Group, they supported entry to the Euro, they enjoyed good and positive relations with anyone who counted in London and Dublin.

    Like most Scottish lefties (plenty of whom are not nationalist), I am temperamentally repelled by the Ulster Unionists, who feel like Tories to me.

    I think my North Down Protestant wife voted Alliance and would have been horrified at the thought of anyone voting Sinn Fein.

    Yet almost everyone in my West Belfast civil service workplace, (paid by HM Gov.), voted Sinn Fein and were scornful of my vote and hated Alasdair McDonnell.

    I took the view then that the process would descend into a sectarian headcount, and that any shift to the “extremes” on one side would cause the other lot to do likewise.

    The Stormont designation model hasn’t helped matters.

    I took the view that the UUP was sectarian (both in rhetoric, tradition and current reality) in a way that the SDLP wasn’t, but neither has been able to appeal to voters from the other community.

    See you all in 30 years for the border poll! Enjoy the new Maryfield in the meantime!