It might have taken a bit longer than many believed would be the case, but today seems to have finally delivered the politics of The Mutual Veto to the power-sharing structures up at Stormont. From a republican perspective, patience seems to have finally worn out with the exiting from the scene of Ian Paisley bringing to an end the ‘holding tongue’ strategy in the face of DUP goading.
Gerry Adams pointed the way, in the aftermath of Nigel Dodds’ Good Morning Ulster interview boasting of the ‘binned’ Irish Language Act and Nelson McCausland’s proud assertion in the Assembly chamber that the DUP held a veto over Policing and Justice. Adams’ reminder to unionists that there were two vetoes in the Executive- with all this entailed for Robbo’s fantasy east Belfast stadium- was echoed more forcefully by Alex Maskey during a Stormont Live interview this afternoon.
The shifting tone of the Sinn Fein leadership will have been welcomed by many within the nationalist community who have become increasingly agitated by the belligerent assertions by DUP representatives regarding the Irish language and Policing and Justice. It would appear, however, that the leaks from within the DUP at the weekend regarding the abandonment of support for the Long Kesh/ Maze project was the final straw.
The post-Dromore DUP appear to be a party unnerved to the extent that they risk upping the ante to a point in which only Jim Allister will benefit, given that, whatever bluff and bluster about the vetoing rights of the DUP, as the Victims Commissioners episode confirmed, resolving any contentious matter will involve satisfying both the DUP and Sinn Fein. In that context, I’d imagine that Jim Allister’s TUVites have been busy today cutting and pasting the various contributions from DUP representatives in a file marked ‘Words to Eat.’
So what may be next on the cards? Well, Arlene Foster’s eleven council model for local government could be an early victim of an Executive Cold War, whilst Edwin is known to fancy a number of projects which could be effectively torpedoed by nationalists subject to movement on the ILA.
Regarding the stadium debacle, it is obvious that the GAA are the least concerned -or affected- by lack of progress on that front. Ironically, the sporting body with the most to lose from an outbreak of Cold War at Stormont, the Irish Football Association, is that to which nationalists have the least affinity and to which unionist politicians would appear most eager to please- if the leaks regarding providing gift stadiums to Linfield or Glentoran (who must be regarded as favoured anchor tenant for the RobboDome) are anything to go by.
Of course, all of this may not come to pass. For the DUP leadership are as aware as republicans that a descent into megaphone diplomacy and tit-for-tat vetoing risks undermining the impressive electoral base coalitions both parties have nurtured in recent years. With that in mind, Sinn Fein leaders were careful today to contextualise their ‘mutual veto’ remarks within more measured assessments, cautioning against travelling down that road. What course of action the DUP will decide upon remains to be seen. We’re entering an interesting period….