Then and now

The Belfast Agreement is now 10 years old. Jim Allister has produced a press release contrasting the positions of the DUP 10 years ago with the position now. Even those who fully support the DUP position might care to look at the change in language which has occurred.

Just a few choice parts of Allister’s message:
“The unholy alliance is now exposed – Trimble, Ahern, Hume and Adams – partners in the campaign seeking support for the all-Ireland deal. Perhaps now that Sinn Fein are in harness with the Glengall Street leadership we will see the “odd couple” – Adams and Trimble campaigning together.”Peter Robinson

Now we see McGuinness and Paisley campaigning for all sorts of things together

This also from the pen of Mr. Robinson:

“The hapless fools who ask what our alternative is to such a process are implicitly suggesting there is no alternative to a united Ireland process. They are not entitled to make that claim as there are many alternatives to Dublin Rule. Complete and total integration within the United Kingdom is one such alternative and the fashion of devolution given recently to Scotland within the United Kingdom is another. However, these pint-sized political thinkers are not really asking “have you got an alternative?” They are implicitly asking “what alternative have you that the IRA will accept?”

The reality is of course that the St. Andrew’s Agreement offers a small, but very small gain for unionists over the disastrously bad (for unionists) Belfast Agreement. To have gained so little having promised so much can only be explained as either extremely poor political negotiation, or a blinding lust for power (or both).

I agree entirely that the IRA has decommissioned some weapons but it clearly remains extant. There is greater accountability in government and some semblance of cabinet government but it is only a semblance. The d’Hondt mandatory coalition remains, the interlocking vetoes, the cross border bodies which unionists must be involved in, the First / Deputy First minister system; with the added “benefit” of the largest party now being able to select the first minister. That short term political decision is a classic example of the error the DUP made at St. Andrew’s. It is only not a problem if the DUP can blackmail the unionist population to keep them the biggest party or if they admit that in reality the First and Deputy First ministers are co-equal.

What that decision on the First minister is illustrative of is that the DUP cannot get out of the mindset of trying to defeat and surpass its enemies in unionism. I fear the DUP is more interested in “Leading in Ulster” than “Leading for Ulster.”

Personally I would be very happy to be wrong and for the DUP to move the whole agreement in the direction they have recently suggested. I just remain utterly unconvinced that they can achieve this. My biggest criticism of them is that I fear they know this to be impossible, have always known it to be the case, and that they are using such suggestions as a smoke screen to cover their capitulation; not in the face of overwhelming odds but in the face of being offered power. I would be genuinely delighted to be proven wrong.