The devil is in the detail

Frank Millar believes the deadline is looking unlikely, four DUP MP’s want to test SF’s bona fides for two more months while apparently Peter Robinson is doubtful that a satisfactory deal can be achieved in the remaining days. The idea of appointments now but devolution later seems to be gaining currency. Meanwhile David Adams believes the SDLP and UUP should go for the opposition option.

  • Observer

    Those DUP MP’s are just right to seek a credible testing period.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Those DUP MP’s are just right to seek a credible testing period.

    What are they testing ? What are the pass/fail criteria ?

  • slug

    Meanwhile its Wallace v RBAI down at Ravinhill for us garden centre types.

  • slug

    Revenhill, oops.

  • Crataegus

    Observer

    Those DUP MP’s are just right to seek a credible testing period.

    Should we not have had the testing period before the election?

  • Ian

    Appointment of DUP Ministers on Monday 26th and their resignation on Tuesday 27th would allow the 26th of March deadline to be bypassed and yield 6 more weeks of ‘testing period’, during which the next IMC report on paramilitary activity will be published in April.

    The new deadline would then be around the 8th of May, which is impeccably well timed for all concerned (except Hain) as:

    (a) it would still allow northern devolution to be up and running BEFORE the likely date of the southern general election (i.e. SF could live with the 6 week delay as they would still be able to go into the election with their power-sharing credentials on display);

    (b) crucially, the revised deadline would fall AFTER the Scottish elections, so the Chancellor might be able to throw a few financial goodies into the mix that he couldn’t otherwise without boosting the SNP’s prospects.

    As for Davy Adams suggesting the SDLP and UUP go into opposition, that’s a non-starter as one of their MLA’s will be required to take up the Justice portfolio in May 2008 to stop the whole pack of cards from falling down.

  • DUP optimists must win over the DUP pessemists this week. Don’t see how they can properly negotiate with Blair (Weds) Brown (Thurs)and their exec (Fri) half-heartedly.
    A battle of hope over fear.
    Pls no more long faces; we want to see an end to those glum, gloomy, sad angry beaks from those 4 suspects. Someone needs to slip them a mickey finn.
    Life’s too short !

  • bob Wilson

    Ian:
    It is anticipated that the 29th Dail will be dissolved on either 26 April or 3 May with elections being held on 18 or 25 May.
    So that could be ideal for Sinn Fein!

    Still dont understand why UUP dont cut a deal with DUP – 2 ministeries for 4 Committee chairmanships?
    (And SDLP with SF?)

  • Alex S

    how will six weks or even six months prove anything? We will still be dealing with the same Shinners with the same ‘baggage’.

  • Inst to win.

  • joeCanuck

    “6 more weeks of ‘testing period’, during which the next IMC report on paramilitary activity will be published in April.”

    Ian, do you really think that the next IMC report will differ substantially from the latest one?

    I’m with Comrade Stalin. A number of us have been pressing recently for the DUP posters to define precisely what SF needs to do to “step up to the plate”. Deafening silence has ensued.

    What are the DUP waiting for?
    SF to shoot themselves in the foot?
    Another unsolved major bank robbery?
    Another barroom brawl leading to a vicious murder which can be somehow tied to the IRA.

    Let’s get on with it.

  • David

    If they can’t deal then we all know what will happen. The government will rush through ’emergency legislation’ and it will drag on and on and on and on and on and on……….yawn. Hain and Blair need to have the courage to carry through their threat.

  • Ian

    JoeC, I agree with you entirely, I was just trying to look on the bright side, so to speak.

    i.e. if the DUP do end up resorting to type by being obstinate and refusing to conform to Hain’s timetable, then there’s a six-week ‘buffer zone’ available before more elections have to take place (or more likely dissolution). I was merely pointing out an event that is due to take place within that six-week timescale (release of the next IMC report) that could give the DUP a pretext to finally come on board without being seen to lose face or waste time just for the hell of it.

    But, to repeat, I personally don’t see any reason why they should delay beyond the 26th.

  • joeCanuck

    OK Ian.
    Thanks for the clarification.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Joe, indeed, the deafening silence continues. People are talking about six weeks, but what’s that going to prove ?

    I am wonder if this is just a matter of the DUP deliberately missing the deadline just to show that they won’t dance to someone else’s tune, and then signing up afterwards. It’s like the kind of thing you’d find in a playground. The DUP have nothing to lose here, there won’t be another assembly election for some time.

  • Crataegus

    I totally fail to see how 6 weeks will make the slightest difference. What will test commitment is ‘events’ and in politics they are have a habit of occurring at the most inappropriate time.

    Just get on with it or don’t.

  • fair_deal

    Joecanuck

    1. There is the conditionality of SF’s motion, although in the implementation to date these seem to have largely been ignored.
    2. Sinn Fein have to sort out this dual definition of policing. Broadly they are were they should be. Some of McGuinness and Adams comments have been particularly positive but the two sets of Gildernew comments need to be addressed.
    3. During the process the Provos have had a habit of turning things on and off but give them long enough and they are found usually to be up to something they shouldn’t. Hence the need to set a tough test.
    4. Sinn Fein delays on the policng motion and special conference to virtually the last possible date reduced even the limited testing period of St Andrews to next to nothing. Patience for some much greater then everyone is supposed to act with undue and unwise haste.

    Although all of this becomes less of an issue if there are stronger exclusion mechanisms. The stronger such mechanisms the less need to worry about testing, conditions or comments.

  • abucs

    Both governments have said all is in place for devolution and if the DUP don’t agree then it’s scrapped.

    Fair enough. This has been flagged well, well, well in advance. I say, let the governments stick to their words.

  • Ian

    CS:

    “I am wonder if this is just a matter of the DUP deliberately missing the deadline just to show that they won’t dance to someone else’s tune, and then signing up afterwards. It’s like the kind of thing you’d find in a playground.”

    That’s what I was getting at. Let them have their childish “ner-ner ne ner-ner” at Hain, or rather the appearance of it, safe in the knowledge that a deadline exists to hold them to, it’s just been shifted on six weeks from the 26th.

    Crat:

    “What will test commitment is ‘events’ and in politics they are have a habit of occurring at the most inappropriate time.”

    ‘Inappropriate’ depends on your perspective (and/or motive). The timing of Gerry McGeough’s arrest could have been considered HIGHLY appropriate by some, including those who ordered it(?)

    Incidentally, Paisley said that SF’s response to McGeough’s arrest could have collapsed the Executive had it been up and running. Can someone explain the difference between that SF response and Nigel Dodds’ condemnation of the police for their raid on the Alexandra Bar a couple of years ago?

  • Ian

    Fair Deal:

    “There is the conditionality of SF’s motion, although in the implementation to date these seem to have largely been ignored.”

    Only applies to joining of Policing Board, etc, but the positions on the boards aren’t available until devolution is restored, so it’s the DUP that is holding that up.

    “Sinn Fein delays on the policng motion and special conference to virtually the last possible date reduced even the limited testing period of St Andrews to next to nothing.”

    Where in the StAA is the timetable for SF’s policing motion to be passed? Conformity with the Ministerial Pledge (by all parties) is for the IMC to determine once devolution is up and running, not the DUP (who in any case are in no position to lecture on the rule of law, etc).

    The StAA does not allow for the DUP to take it upon themselves to cause a delay ad infinitum in the guise of a ‘testing period’. If dissolution occurs next Tuesday it will be entirely on the DUPs shoulders that the blame will fall.

  • Observer

    “Those DUP MP’s are just right to seek a credible testing period.

    What are they testing ? What are the pass/fail criteria ?

    Posted by Comrade Stalin on Mar 19, 2007 @ 12:14 PM”

    That Sinn Fein/IRA have undertaken their responsibilities re. policing.

    The helicopter crash in Crossmaglen, Co. Armagh says a lot.

    Locals pelt emergency crew with stones. I fail to see any vaild condemnation from any local Sinn Fein/IRA politican.

    I want stable government, not unstable government.

  • Ian

    Observer:

    “I want stable government, not unstable government.”

    And yet the DUP won’t agree to a target date for devolution of Justice TO A SDLP OR UUP MINISTER. Since it’s already accepted that the DUP or Sinn Fein won’t get the post, the refusal to agree to a target date is just obstinately setting up a roadblock for a year or so from now. So much for that requirement for ‘stable government’.

    And before you go saying that the date for devolution of justice is a ‘self-imposed condition’ by Sinn Fein, so is the DUP’s requirement for a ‘credible testing period’ for SF. That was stipulated by the DUP Executive, not by StAA. After next Monday the DUP Exec policy will in fact be in breach of St Andrews, unless that policy is changed at the Exec meeting later this week.

  • Morning press briefing from 19 March 2007 No.10

    Asked if the Prime Minister would be seeing Ian Paisley this week to talk about power sharing, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that it was likely that there would be a meeting. What was important was that the message from the election was very clear; people wanted to see devolution and they wanted to see it by next Monday. What we now had to see was whether politicians would listen to that voice.

    Put that there was some speculation today about emergency bills next week, the PMOS replied that he would not go down that road. The basis on which the election was held was very clearly set out at the time when the two Prime Minister announced the election. All the evidence we had suggested that the public well understood that basis, and overwhelmingly, wanted their politicians to restore devolution next Monday. It was in legislation that the 26th March was the deadline, and therefore, people had to make their minds up by then.

    Put that there was no prospect of the legislation being changed after 26th, the PMOS said that the legislation was there, and it was clearly there before the election, and it was the basis on which the election was held. People had understood that, and the electorate showed very clearly what they wanted their politicians to do

  • fair_deal

    Ian

    “Only applies to joining of Policing Board, etc”

    By my reading of the motion you are incorrect.

    “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.”

    It seems to apply to the entire motion.

    On the second point I think the SoS can reconstitute the Policing Board without devolution (although not certain so I am fully open to correction on that point).

    “Conformity with the Ministerial Pledge (by all parties) is for the IMC to determine once devolution is up and running, not the DUP”

    You are describing the post devolutionary scenario. We aren’t there yet so it is in the DUP’s own judgement.

    “The StAA does not allow for the DUP to take it upon themselves to cause a delay ad infinitum in the guise of a ‘testing period’.”

    The STAA didn’t allow for lots of things:
    1. The parties were to signify their accpetnace of STAA by 10th Nov. SF by calling the AF and allowing Martin McGuinness to take the oath of office with references to the police and DUP by saying yes to powersharing with SF. Neither did so passing vague motions. So St andrews wasn’t kept.
    2. This then knocked on to appointments. There were to be shadow FM and DFM’s on 24th November which then become a commitment to nominate ministers – that didn’t even really happen either. So St Andrews wasn’t kept.
    3. The legislation for St Andrews contained a different process for the nomination of OFM and DFM that was in St Andrews. St Andrews wasn’t kept.
    4. The Policing motion was not meant to be conditional. Yet it was and St Andrews wasn’t kept.
    5. The delay to the end of January reduced any testing period by approximately 6-8 weeks. So St Andrews wasn’t kept.
    6. There was to be a nomination of ministers last week. It didn’t happen. St Andrews wasn’t kept.

    The process has been kept going over the last 4/5 months by ‘not allowing’ for St Andrews so sorry if I don’t consider it so inviolate as you do. Remember what Mandy said process is the policy.

    Also if the article is true it isn’t “ad infinitum” it is clearly defined period – two months.

  • Crataegus

    Ian

    ‘Inappropriate’ depends on your perspective (and/or motive).

    Very true, the whole set up is fragile and unnecessarily so. I am not optimistic that we have a basis for stability.

    By the way good posts.

  • Ian

    “I am not optimistic that we have a basis for stability.”

    Perhaps the most stable solution would be for the DUP to go into voluntary coalition with Fianna Fail on a 32-county basis, thereby excluding SF from power-sharing for the conceivable future.

  • Crataegus

    Ian

    FF and the DUP both deserve each other.

  • Ian

    “The helicopter crash in Crossmaglen, Co. Armagh says a lot.

    Locals pelt emergency crew with stones. I fail to see any vaild condemnation from any local Sinn Fein/IRA politician.”

    I wonder if any of the security force members involved in the crash at Crossmaglen were on duty at Whiterock 18 months ago, when the UUP and DUP failed to issue any valid condemnation of the attacks on the police and army but the UVF, UDA and Orange Order. I wonder which they preferred, a few snowballs in South Armagh or petrol bombs and live bullets in West Belfast?

  • Ian

    That should read “attacks on the police and army BY the UVF, UDA and OO”.

  • Ian

    And before someone cries “Whataboutery” over my last post, it doesn’t apply because SF or the SDLP did not refuse to enter a powersharing arrangement with the DUP after Whiterock 05 on the basis of the DUP’s lack of support for the rule of law.

    The value of “Whataboutery” as a debating tool is devalued by its disingenuous misuse. In fact, Whataboutery is the new Wolf.

  • Ian

    “People are talking about six weeks, but what’s that going to prove?”
    “I totally fail to see how 6 weeks will make the slightest difference.”

    The Chancellor might agree to a cut in corporation tax, if only on a temporary basis, but he won’t do that prior to May the 3rd otherwise the SNP will be crying “What about a similar tax cut here” during the Scottish elections. Six weeks would take the deadline just past May the 3rd.

    So if the DUP get the impression in the current negotiations that Brown MIGHT move on corporation tax, but NOT till after the Scottish elections, then the next IMC report would give a pre-text to delay for six weeks until they can secure such a commitment.

  • Philip

    Point out the 6 weeks buffer zone to me the Act of Parliment below?

    http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/20060053.htm

  • páid

    Fair Deal reminds us of what Mandy said Blair’s mantra is:

    The process is the policy.

    Postponements, delays etc. are not bumps on the road, they are the road.

  • Ian

    Philip,

    It’s in the 1998 Act. The DUP would have to fill the posts next Monday in order to get past the deadline contained within the 2006 Act that you referred to, but they could resign on Tuesday and under the 1998 Act there would be a six-week period to fill the posts before another election is called (or dissolution occurs).

    It smacks of Trimble tactics so the DUP might not run with it, but it does in theory present a ‘Third Way’ between Hain’s two options of Devolution next Monday or Dissolution.

    I’m not sure but the non-DUP ministers might remain in place for the six weeks (including the Deputy FM which was detached from the FM at the DUP’s insistence). The DUP’s Ministries would probably temporarily reside in a rudderless limbo for six weeks. Even if the posts are re-allocated under d’Hondt, the First Minister would not be replaced as the DUP Assembly group could vote down any suggested alternative.

    Also, I think the suspension legislation will automatically be repealed upon resumption of devolution (at Sinn Fein’s insistence), so the government would need to pass more primary legislation to avoid ANOTHER election after the six week period lapses, but if we’re talking about the DUP going for a one-off evocation of the six-week rule (i.e. a buffer zone rather than a series of six week periods) then that wouldn’t be necessary.

    I appreciate it all sounds rather improbable but stranger things have happened in northern Ireland.

  • Ian

    To follow on from my previous, the DFM might remain in place for the six weeks but couldn’t do much as most functions of the posts require the FM and DFM to ‘act jointly’.

  • Ian

    A couple of final words on the matter:

    Ideally my theory won’t be put to the test because the DUP will just get on with things on Monday, but if things do proceed as I surmised then it could certainly lead to ‘interesting times’.

    And finally, supposing the DUP kept their cards close to their chest until they enter the Assembly next Monday but then there was another Michael Stone-type incident to disrupt proceedings? (I’m sure MI5 could arrange something). Stormont would be shut for the rest of the day. The deadline elapses – does dissolution follow?

    Hain is only required by the 2006 Act to sign the dissolution order on Tuesday if he believes there is no prospect of the posts being filled. But he might be able to fudge that on the grounds that “unforeseen” circumstances prevented the Ministerial nominations, and he couldn’t prove beyond reasonable doubt that the DUP had no intention of nominating.

    I’m sure Mad Dog Adair would jump at the chance to out-do Stone’s stunt. Like I said, stranger things have happened…

  • Crataegus

    The devil is in the detail

    No in truth the devil is in men’s soles.

  • mchinadog

    I think Ian suffers from verbal diarrhea, let hope he now has writers cramp and we get no more nonsence from him.

    I agree with Fair Deal
    There is the conditionality of SF’s motion regarding support for policing- they only support civil policing whatever that is.
    McGuinness, Adams and Gildernew’s comments have been sending mixed messages this also need to be addressed.
    A tough test is required for Sinn Fein/IRA as they can turn on and off their nefarious activities as and when required. The Provos do have had a habit of turning things on and off.
    Strong exclusion mechanisms and sanctions in the event of such happenings are an essential part of the DUP going into government with Sinn Fein /IRA. Going into Stormont without these in place would be committing political suicide for any Unionist.
    I fully support the DUP not going into Government until all the conditions set out by the party are fulfilled. The promises and undertakings given by the British Government are also fulfilled and that the Government hold Sinn Fein to account remembering that they had from October 2006 until March 2007 to fulfill all the commitments and have done very little to date yet they are trying to pressurise the DUP to go by in next Monday..

    Just listening to the news tonight, the Republicans are at it again in Crossmaglen,firing over 30 petrol bombs at the investigators and the police, last night it was the Amblance service, so much for Sinn Fein’s support for policing and the rule of law. Why should anyone take their word they support policing, it is obvious they do not. Words are not enough it is Deeds that count.

  • picador

    Drumcree (1,2,3,4,..), Whiterock, Harryville, Holy Cross, etc. Mayhem, murder, destruction.

    DUP support for the RUC/PSNI, has always been CONDITIONAL.

  • Rubicon

    Philip – you ask where the 6 week period is in the SAA (the link you posted is to the SAA). It is not on the SAA but the consolidated NI Act of 1998 (now modified by subsequent legislation). SAA sets out the timings and sequences for restoration on the 26th or dissolution on the 27th.

    With d’Hondt nominations occuring on the 26th the SoS cannot lay a dissolution order on the 27th (thta is in the SAA). On the 27th the NI Act determines what happens id either the First or Deputy First Minister resigns. A 6 week period then occurs.

    mchinadog – I don’t see where Ian suffers from “verbal diarrhea” – his points seem valid. If you think SF “have done very little to date” then I wonder what you would regard “a lot”. The DUP have demonstrated conditional support for policing – and that is determined by their own explicit statements and not by reaching to behaviours of loyalist mobs. If you think SF are to be blamed for every criminal act occurring within the nationalist community then please say so. We’d all then know who is suffering from “verbal diarrhea”.

  • Wilde Rover

    I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

    Both the DUP and SF are doing the auld “Good Cop Bad Cop” routine to keep all the plates spinning until the very end, when they can turn to their respective backwoodsmen, hand on heart, and say that it was all the fault of Perfidious Bertie and Blair.