“This Ard Fheis mandates the Ard Chomhairle to set out, in public..”

Northern Ireland’s deputy First minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, MP, MLA, had claimed that no-one had contradicted him on his claims that commitments had been given to meet the May 2008 target date for devolving policing and justice powers.. but in today’s Newsletter, the DUP’s Iris Robinson, MP, MLA, gathers together some very familiar quotes and references to do just that. The article ends with this point

While it would seem foolish for republicans to accept the outlandish boasts and rhetoric of the Sinn Fein leadership when playing to their base and not see through them, it would be even more foolish for unionists to fall into the trap of believing them.

It’s a point also made in the Irish Times by David Adams [subs req]

Despite what Gerry Adams has been intimating, there is no danger to the Executive from anyone within the DUP.

In fact, it seems more likely that Sinn Féin itself is under some pressure internally and from its grassroots.

Whenever republicans are feeling the strain, their first instinct is to try to settle nerves by shifting the focus and rattling unionists.

This was the likely reasoning behind the recent ardfheis declaration of a concerted push for a united Ireland, and attempts to hold a commemoration event at Stormont for deceased IRA member Maireád Farrell.

Likewise, Adams’s mischievous and wholly unfounded warnings to the DUP about picking sham fights with Sinn Féin, and republican talk of instability if policing and justice is not devolved by the St Andrews Agreement deadline of May.

It is instructive to note how calmly the DUP and broad unionism have reacted to Sinn Féin’s antics.

There was a time when they would have been up in arms, but not any more.

Unionists are now far more relaxed about the Assembly and the Executive: and little wonder.

The DUP has Stormont sewn up, and both the unionist and republican electorates know it – in the latter case, to the obvious unease of Sinn Féin.

Any sign of a response from the SF leadership to that Ard Fheis motion?

“This Ard Fheis mandates the Ard Chomhairle to set out, in public, the party’s position in relation to our involvement in the current policing structures should the British Government fail to devolve policing and justice powers by the 8th May 2008.”

Adds In the comments zone, Chris tells me that the party’s position isn’t to be set out, in public, until that May date passes.

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  • DC

    The main point to be taken from this is not so much about vetoes but more to do with substance and role for Sinn Fein and the DUP inside the assembly. The DUP can feel comfortable, but doing nothing is easy. Doing nothing and getting paid is excellent! But nothing to be proud of at all.

    To turn to Sinn Fein, just what will pass for substance now within a legislative Assembly that is without the provisions to ever legislate for a United Ireland? That case will remain outside the assembly and as mentioned on Slugger before the northern tail will not wag that dog.

    No, the starkest sign that the DUP are sharper in its engagement with Sinn Fein was the time Jennifer McCann raised the motion of tax-varying powers.

    Whilst SF delivered the opening speech the DUP countered with strong arguments, Sammy Wilson entered the debate about the Laffer curve and it was all very convincing because the tax-varying powers had been an end in itself not a means for a particular purpose. Economically SF seemed unsure.

    However, the substance of SF’s motion was appealing, and I would extoll the virtue of federalism here, as having more local powers came across as not a bad proposition. If only SF had the ideas to back up the need for why they wanted it. Unremarkably, the DUP had no ideas either, other than Punt being blunt saying he could vary taxes via the regional rate! But Sammy Wilson won the day, clearly on non-sectarian grounds, and he won with passion and bounce that like a Whippet dashing in, out and all around Sinn Fein.

    Anyway, that persuasiveness of the DUP left SF silenced and stunned. I watched while Adams just sat befuddled, while McCann was made politically redundant in that particular debate.

    Sinn Fein need to intellectually tighten up or perhaps loosen up on community-rhetoric, as they appear a little blunt and without substance when they try to move politics in a democratic manner, which they are clearly not accustomed to. Cultural politics yes; but they stumble when entering into more complex non-community grounds.

  • perci

    Peteb,
    My, your putting a helluva lot of over-time in over this issue. Worried about something?

    Remember last year, zillions of thread about how it ain’t gonna happen, power-sharing that is.
    What happened?

  • Pete Baker

    “zillions of thread about how it ain’t gonna happen, power-sharing that is.”

    Really?

    Go find one by me.

  • Pete

    That response does not have to be made until the 8th of May has passed.

  • Pete Baker

    Thanks Chris.

    I guess the conditionality on the May date reference could be interpreted as applying to the opening mandate.

  • Ian

    Chris G,

    What would you say to a republican who has been recruited to the ranks of the PSNI within the last 12 months, following the advice of the SF leadership to support the PSNI, but who is now concerned that certain elements of SF might be pushing to withdraw SF support for the PSNI post-May the 8th, if P&J;powers have not been devolved by then?

  • Ian

    I drew up that motion which Pete has mentioned; it was not done with the intention to withdraw Sinn Féin from the Policing structures.

    That being said at the time of the Policing debate within the movement the transfer of P&J;was crucial to Republican’s acceptance of the Special Ard Fheis motion.

    Assurances were made and Republicans need to know what the leadership intend to do should P&J;failed to be devolved by 8th May.

    “What would you say to a republican who has been recruited to the ranks of the PSNI within the last 12 months, following the advice of the SF leadership to support the PSNI”

    I know of such a person. One of my mates at Uni who comes from a strong Republican area and is a Republican himself did that very thing.

    “certain elements of SF might be pushing to withdraw SF support for the PSNI post-May the 8th”

    I don’t believe such elements exist so I would say nothing to him.

  • Ian

    … with all that a withdrawal of Republican support might imply for serving members of the PSNI?

  • Ian

    Chris, fair enough (my latter post crossed with yours). I’m glad to hear that no-one in SF would countenance shafting those who did sign up to the police at the behest of SF.

    You have, I think, also answered those who have been insinuating in other threads that SF might somehow threaten the stability of the institutions post-May.

  • Ian

    “who did sign up to the police at the behest of SF”

    I don’t see how anyone could have signed up at the “behest” of Sinn Féin. That’s just silly! Everyone makes their own choice in this life.

  • Ian

    Okay, “behest” was maybe the wrong word. Stick with “the advice of” (I was trying to avoid repeating myself.)

  • My point remains

    Everyone makes their own choices in this life.

  • “Everyone makes their own choices in this life.”

    That’s been debatable and maybe still is.

  • RedHaze

    I’m afraid republican in the RUC-PSNI doesn’t really wash.

    Catholic, yes. Nationalist, maybe. Republican, no.

  • Reader

    redhaze: I’m afraid republican in the RUC-PSNI doesn’t really wash. Catholic, yes. Nationalist, maybe. Republican, no.
    So, how about in the Civil Service, then? That didn’t use to be acceptable either. Is it acceptable now?

  • Pancho’s Horse

    redhaze: does that apply to the Provisional Alliance too?

  • Dec

    “certain elements of SF might be pushing to withdraw SF support for the PSNI post-May the 8th”

    I don’t believe such elements exist so I would say nothing to him

    Why set a date in the first place then?

  • Mark McGregor

    So what’s the craic here? The person that drafted the motion fully expects the clarification to be the position hasn’t changed? Hardly much point in asking.

  • slug

    Presumably the way it will work is that IRA will announce that it has disbanded and Sinn Féin will make some further statements to this effect then the DUP will accept the transfer of policing and justice powers to the Assembly?

  • “Why set a date in the first place then?”

    I thought that was obvious, that is the date at which P&J;powers were to be devolved.

    “The person that drafted the motion fully expects the clarification to be the position hasn’t changed?”

    Now Mark, where did I say that I fully expect the clarification to be that the position hasn’t changed?

    Don’t misrepresent my views, its not an honest way to debate.

  • Mark McGregor

    Chris,

    Sorry, I may have read this wrong:

    “certain elements of SF might be pushing to withdraw SF support for the PSNI post-May the 8th”

    I don’t believe such elements exist so I would say nothing to him.

    Seemed to me like you didn’t foresee support for the PSNI being withdrawn. I would have thought that a fair and understandable reading of where SF are at.

    I’d welcome a corrective, certainly wouldn’t want to misrepresent you.

  • Dec

    “Why set a date in the first place then?”

    I thought that was obvious, that is the date at which P&J;powers were to be devolved.

    …by the British Government. Shame, as Pete points out, it’s not up to them. Since, it’s not going to happen (by the 8th May), is SF going to withdraw it’s support for the PSNI and policing structures? You have already intimated they will not, so why set a date in the first place?

  • DK

    Why would SF withdraw support from the police if the May deadline is missed. It’s not the police’s fault. Instead they should look to withdraw support from the DUP.