Junior took his eye off the ball…

Interesting quote from Jim Allister tonight on Newsline:

Allister: The focus should have been on the constitutional issues; getting the best deal for Unionism; cutting OFMDFM; getting rid of the IRA Army Council; getting rid of mandatory coalition. And what do we find? One of the key negotiators took his eye off the ball and was off pursuing other interests with the Prime Minister.

Thompson: He claims that this all took place on the margins of the St Andrews’ Talks, that he took the opportunity to raise a number of understanding constituency cases. At no time, did the DUP use any of these matters as leverage in the negotiations.

Allister: You only have so much leverage in these negotiations (the St Andrews talks). Who thought it appropriate to waste some of that leverage on constituency and quasi commercial matters? It really doesn’t add up. Here you are at the crunch point in negotiations and what’s Ian Paisley Junior talking about: the Causeway: Ballee lands: some other golf development; when he should have been talking about making sure the IRA Army Council was gone, and gone forever.

Junior was bullish, as well he might. This is certainly embarrassing particularly since some of his senior party colleagues involved in the negotiations at St Andrews have claimed they were unsighted on this. Certainly his actions make life extremely complicated for Ministers like Arlene Foster who have had important decisions to make in this area.

Internally many will also be ‘doing the math’, and calculating the precise value of these measures, some of them apparently ringfenced from further interference from the Executive, as a proportion of the the value of the things that were on the party’s Executive Council’s own shopping list.

But for the public, it is the externalities that hold the greatest interest. Not least the precise nature of the ‘quasi commercial’ interest Allister mentions (four items on Juniors short-list involve developers). And the pleading for ending a judicial review.

At the very least, the man is burning political capital he can ill afford to waste.

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