After yesterday’s wall to wall statements saying it will all be alright on the night, Nigel Dodds tells Peter Hain he is in no position to suggest 26th March is a now or never date (subs needed).
Mr Dodds rejected Mr Hain’s assertion that the choice on March 26th lies between “devolution” or “dissolution”, and that failure then and any subsequent attempt to restore devolved government could take years and would require fresh elections. Questioning the legal basis for Mr Hain’s position, Mr Dodds insisted that a new Act of Parliament could simply re-instate the Northern Ireland Assembly on the basis of last week’s election – even if it was dissolved following a failure to appoint an executive on Monday week.
Mr Dodds cited the precedent set by Mr Hain himself in creating the “transitional Assembly” that paved the way for last week’s election. “The DUP is in no way fazed or intimidated by the NIO line and this talk of a new election,” he asserted. “We know it’s nonsense, they [the British government] know it’s nonsense, and they should just get on with delivery.”
As the Belfast Telgraph has noted, whatever the spin it will take two to tango.
There is agreement now across all sections of the DUP that party leader the Rev Ian Paisley is eager to become co-equal First Minister in a new executive with Sinn Féin’s deputy first minister-designate Martin McGuinness, and that he would like to take office on Monday week.
As reported in yesterday’s Irish Times, some DUP MPs pressing for a longer period in which to “test” Sinn Féin’s bona fides also suspect Dr Paisley might be prepared to force the issue to a positive outcome at the party’s executive meeting.
However, one said last night he did not believe “it would come to that”, suggesting Dr Paisley would rather judge the mood of the party before committing himself. A second well-placed source also said that deputy leader Peter Robinson would be important in assessing the implications for long-term party unity of meeting the deadline, rather than seeking delay possibly until May.
Interesting to note that the transitional Assembly (yep, it’s still alive) will debate the Ministerial Code in which Minister’s are expected to pledge support for the PSNI – which, in absence of any pronouncements from the Ard Comhairle, represents Sinn Fein’s only visible intention of formally supporting the police.
Long term watchers of the Process™, will know what to expect: negotiations up to, through and even past a deal. Since we now know that the Process™ IS the policy, it’s hard to see how either No 10 or the NIO can now make any set deadline stick.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty