Robinson loses his cool

Tensions between the government and the DUP were exposed as never before since the St Andrew’s Agreement, in a sharp exchange in the Commons between Peter Robinson and the normally deferential Shaun Woodward. At NI Questions, urgings that stalling over the devolution of justice and policing should end were even dragged into a question about youth crime and alcohol abuse.

After exchanges deploring the murder in Derry last night of Emmett Shields, Woodward declared that dissident republican activity was ” at its highest for five years.” Making a link the DUP abominate between delays in devolution and ongoing violence, Woodward declared that devolution of J&P should happen ” sooner rather than later” to confound those individuals “who cling to the obsessive hope they can shake confidence in Northern Ireland.”

The DUP’s real rejoinder came later at PMQs, when Iris Robinson demanded that the government should not “legalise” the IRA, an idea she had unsurprisingly drawn from the latest report from Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation, which seemed to suggest that the IRA should now be de-proscribed ( see Slugger post below). Gordon Brown seemed thrown by the question, but managed to reply that he was not going to ” legalise the IRA. Its Army Council should be brought to an end as as soon as possible.”

But back to her husband. Woodward had been stalling on the vexed subject of handing over nine former army sites free to the Executive, which a 2003 declaration had said might been handed over, after five promised in 2002 had indeed been transferred. Robinson was having none of this might. On what looked like the spur of the moment, he exploded:

The 2003 agreement said there should be additional sites handed over. When’s the government going to do it?”

At this, Woodward’s worm turned for once. Five sites had been gifted in 2002, he said, but insisted again on the might for the 2003 batch. Warming to his theme, he even hit back:

“I do have to say that there is disappointment that there continues to be disagreement about the Maze site which was gifted in 2002 and which regrettably continues to be the subject of controversy. Which at the end of the day if the National Stadium project were to be lost to the Maze, would mean that Northern Ireland would almost certainly lose its hope to be one of the centres focusing on 2012 Olympics.”

That’s telling them Shaun!
Judging from these and other exchanges, it seems that the door is not closed on handing over more sites. There were even hints that the Lisanelly camp site at Omagh might be handed over for the education village proposal, championed among others, by the local Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty and a most unlikely ally, the very grand Tory chair of the NI committee, Sir Patrick Cormack.

And just to show his straight talk was quickly exhausted, Woodward reverted to cringe when challenged by a Conservative that the government had done a deal with the DUP in exchange for their support in the close vote on 42 days’ detention without charge.

“There was no deal, ” the Secretary of State insisted. The very idea was “an insult to one of the most principled parties in the House on counter terrorism”

But I’ve a feeling that the First Minister will want more than warm words before relations are fully restored with the government. And vice versa, for that matter.

  • Steve

    Perhaps the english government is waiting for community confidence before they surrender more assets to the nIreland assembly

  • interested

    Hmmmm, you can take the man out of the BBC………

  • So Robinson has pissed off both the Tories (for voting with Labour over 42 day detention), and now Labour itself. Needless to say his homophobic wife has ensured that the Lib-Dems will have nothing to do with the DUP.

    What a political genius! How lucky unionists are to have such mature, intelligent and savvy politicians representing them …

  • “Northern Ireland would almost certainly lose its hope to be one of the centres focusing on 2012 Olympics.”

    Pull the other one Shaun. Northern Ireland will not be a “centre” focusing on anything to do with the Olympics. There was a chance we could host qualifying football matches between teams nobody would have wanted to watch anyway. That chance has probably gone.

    Big loss. The stadium should be for the long-term good of local sport, not short-term gratification and kodak moments for NIO ministers.

  • observer

    What a political genius! How lucky unionists are to have such mature, intelligent and savvy politicians representing them …

    Posted by Horseman on Jun 25, 2008 @ 02:12 PM

    unlike Gerry “im going to pull the whole thing down unless i get my own way” Adams

  • joeCanuck

    Since Iris Robinson has been mentioned, may I add this aside (repost):

    On a related subject, Iris Robinson has been excoriated in the lead editorial in New Scientist this week.
    In the same issue there is an article on brain scans of people which strongly suggests that homosexuality is, indeed, genetic and not a lifestyle choice.

  • George

    Beano,
    “Big loss. The stadium should be for the long-term good of local sport, not short-term gratification and kodak moments for NIO ministers.”

    As you feel that way, you’ll be glad to hear that’s exactly where all that lovely once-in-a-lifetime lottery cash sports windfall is going.

    Naturally, that doesn’t leave enough for the luxury of building a stadium for the Northern Ireland football team.

  • Can’t wait to hear what the victims commissioners have to say for themselves on the newsletter live blog chat tomorrow. Lets hope for the exposure of more of the DUP/SF unholy alliance:

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/CustomPages/CustomPage.aspx?pageid=73909

  • Quagmire

    “unlike Gerry “im going to pull the whole thing down unless i get my own way” Adams”
    Posted by observer on Jun 25, 2008 @ 03:00 PM

    What has Gerry Adams got to do with this topic? Strange? Completely agree with you horseman! Chances are the Tories will form the next government and the DUP vote on 42 days will live long in the memory.

  • DUP voter

    “So Robinson has pissed off both the Tories (for voting with Labour over 42 day detention), and now Labour itself. Needless to say his homophobic wife has ensured that the Lib-Dems will have nothing to do with the DUP.

    What a political genius! How lucky unionists are to have such mature, intelligent and savvy politicians representing them … ”

    Peter Robinson is really clever because hes head of the DUP which is the best unionist party out there. all other unionists are lundies and therefore not as clever as peter

  • observer

    What has Gerry Adams got to do with this topic? Strange? Completely agree with you horseman! Chances are the Tories will form the next government and the DUP vote on 42 days will live long in the memory.

    Posted by Quagmire on Jun 25, 2008 @ 03:21 PM

    and?? do you think the Tories are going to buddy up to SF? Think again

  • DUP voter

    “do you think the Tories are going to buddy up to SF? Think again”

    Yea! That’s our job!

  • DC

    Unionism showing signs of collapse due to its own incompetence.

  • Schicklgruber

    “Unionism showing signs of collapse due to its own incompetence.”

    If only we were enlightened enough to support the IRA

  • observer

    “do you think the Tories are going to buddy up to SF? Think again”

    Yea! That’s our job!

    Posted by DUP voter on Jun 25, 2008 @ 03:34 PM

    yeah, thats why Gerry Adams is having a hissy fit every week. If Jim Allister and co had got their way DUblin and London would be falling over themselves to satisfy the great bearded one. Hope Jim Keeps his green jumper on a little longer

  • DUP voter

    You tell them Observer. Jim doesnt unconditionally believe everything we say so hes clearly a dissident republican loon!

  • observer

    You tell them Observer. Jim doesnt unconditionally believe everything we say so hes clearly a dissident republican loon!

    Posted by DUP voter on Jun 25, 2008 @ 03:43 PM

    Tell me DUP voter, do you agree with jim that the litmus test for SF in government is the disbandment of the army council?

  • DUP voter

    No I agree that the test for SF in government is whatever Peter Robinson says

  • observer

    No I agree that the test for SF in government is whatever Peter Robinson says

    Posted by DUP voter on Jun 25, 2008 @ 04:01 PM

    Another JA supporter that does support his stance on SF, quite a lot of them about

  • joeCanuck

    Make up your minds, unionists. Do you want SF and the IRA to be intertwined or not?

  • Quagmire

    “do you agree with jim that the litmus test for SF in government is the disbandment of the army council?”
    Posted by observer on Jun 25, 2008 @ 03:50 PM

    SF are already in Govt and the army council still exists. Don’t be so arrogant and obnoxious. It is for the electorate to decide who gets to be in Govt and not Peter Robinson or anyone else within the DUP or political Unionism for that matter. A large proportion of the electorate don’t seem to have a problem with the existence of the army council. If they did SF wouldn’t be the second largest party in the executive.

    “and?? do you think the Tories are going to buddy up to SF? Think again”
    Posted by observer on Jun 25, 2008 @ 03:32 PM

    I couldn’t care less what the Tories ,or any other party in Britain, think or indeed who they care to cosy up to in the foreseeable future. SF certainly don’t care because SF understand that the future is on a all-Island basis and they have a duty to their electorate here in Ireland. Do you honestly think that any of the partys in Britain actually care about this place? The MP’s from the north are a laughing stock in Westminster and through their recent actions in relation to Iris’ remarks on homosexuality, their vote on 42 day detention and their constant foot dragging on P&J;, the DUP have done nothing to endear themselves to any of the big 3 Partys in Britain. I believe that in time the vast majority of the Unionist electorate will see the futility of Westminster and that their interests are best served here in Ireland through the 6 County Executive and indeed,given time, within an all-Island Parliament where their voices will be heard more clearly and their politicians will carry more clout. I believe that this transition in thinking has already began within some parts of the Unionist community here in Ireland.

  • observer

    A large proportion of the electorate don’t seem to have a problem with the existence of the army council

    Doesnt surprise any unionists, nationalists have always supported terrorism

  • observer

    I believe that this transition in thinking has already began within some parts of the Unionist community here in Ireland.

    Posted by Quagmire on Jun 25, 2008 @ 04:44 PM

    maybe in Ireland but not in Northern Ireland

  • DUP voter

    Don’t we refer to NI as “the north of Ireland” now?

  • Shore Road Resident

    Too many sad people on this website lately.
    Mick: time for some internal housekeeping.

  • Richard North

    Methinks our Shaun missed the point and walked into the trap, eyes wide shut. It you look at the transcript closely (see below), you will see that Owen Paterson is referring to the “deal” brokered when certain parties visited Downing Street, prior to Robinson’s ascension.

    Rather betraying his guilty conscious, the egregious Woodward assumed Paterson was talking about the other “non deal”, which he then denied – thereby proving the first rule of politics that nothing is true in government until it has been denied by a Minister.

    And since “everybody” now knows that there was not one deal but two – the Minister having kindly confirmed it – is it not about time that the Parliament was let into the secret(s) – to say nothing of the NI Assembly, which remains equally in the dark?

    – – – –
    Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): There has been widespread speculation about the detail of the talks and the agreement leading up to the establishment of the new Executive. What was the deal and does it have any budget implications?

    Mr. Woodward: As always, the hon. Gentleman gets excited about his questions, but I am going to have to disappoint him. There was no deal and therefore there are no financial implications.

    Mr. Paterson: I thought that the Ulster White was a rare pig, now sadly extinct. I did not realise that it had been reincarnated in flying form. We know that there were tense and difficult negotiations in Downing street with the Prime Minister. There was clearly an agreement, because the Executive was reformed, which was good news. The Secretary of State has already mentioned the figure of £6 million, which was announced by the president of Sinn Fein rather than the Secretary of State. Devolution of criminal justice and policing has been mentioned, as have water rates, the sale of military sites and education. Why will not the Secretary of State tell us what the deal was?

    Mr. Woodward: The short answer is that there was no deal. The hon. Gentleman mentions the £6 million for the Irish Language Broadcasting Fund. This may have escaped him, but I do not think that Sinn Fein took its places to vote on the matter of 42 days last week. The hon. Gentleman should be very careful, because he is impugning the reputation of a number of Members from Northern Ireland who are highly principled on the matter of counter-terrorism. I suggest that before he gives lectures to Members of the DUP, he should pay attention to one of the most principled parties in the House when it comes to the business of building a robust framework of counter-terrorism legislation.

  • Peat Blog

    The sad people should disband themselves.

  • picador

    Demanding the disbandment of the ‘Provisional’ IRA Army Council is pointless as the Army Council could just vest its ‘powers’ in the Army Executive instead before dissolving – rather as the remaining members of the Second Dail did in 1938.

    Of course the unionist demand would then be the disbandment of the IRA Army Executive and so on ad infinitum. But the IRA is a secret organisation. Those who control it will always find some way of staying in charge.

    The important thing, I would have thought, is that the IRA has disarmed, has declared that its war is over and is committed to the peace process.

  • picador

    BTW, what are the DUP demanding of the UVF or UDA?

  • Steve

    Picador

    Shh those are their community protectors and they hold the peoples guns(sounds all communist like) and how dare you equate them with terrorists.

  • Eireannach Saolta

    Observer who do you vote for?

    Is it a DUP MLA. Sammy Wilson who opened a UVF arch for all those years ago
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/817946.stm. You havent seen the pictures of Peter Robinson have you not or how about his good old days in Ulster resistance. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulster_Resistance

    Is it the UUP. Weren’t Reg and Trimbe in that loyalist terrorist party the Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party all those years ago.

    Using your pronouncement the unionist electorate has consitently been voting for terrosists all these years

  • observer

    #

    BTW, what are the DUP demanding of the UVF or UDA?
    Posted by picador on Jun 25, 2008 @ 06:10 PM


    The DUp have always demanded that the police/army combat these terrorists , something Nationalists have shamefully failed to do especially their own terrorists.

  • Eireannach Saolta

    Still havent got a response to my comment yet observer

  • fionn

    Eireannach Saolta

    … you’ll be waiting

  • Steve

    observer

    in the nationalist communities the police and army are the terrorists. And they have always demanded they combat themselves and it cost more than a few of them their lives

    Nelson and Finucane for starters

  • The nationalist community would see the Unionists backed up by the British state as terrorists with a good dollop of fundamentalist protestant anti-catholicism thrown into the mix. The loyalist bloodthirsty murder gangs were akin to many colonial thugs who did the British’s dirty work for them. Good for the goose good for the gander.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘The DUp have always demanded that the police/army combat these terrorists , something Nationalists have shamefully failed to do especially their own terrorists.’

    LOL, reminds me of that scene in the truly shite Devils Own

    “Did they get the bastards?”

    “They are the bastards !”

  • Comrade Stalin

    The DUp have always demanded that the police/army combat these terrorists , something Nationalists have shamefully failed to do especially their own terrorists.

    Observer, this isn’t really true now, is it ?

  • Greenflag

    quagmire ,

    ‘SF understand that the future is on a all-Island basis and they have a duty to their electorate here in Ireland.’

    Which future ? Not the economic future as it will not be on an all island basis either -it will be on a global basis. Ourselves alone is not an option any more not that it ever was . As a recipe for another famine it could work of course but I doubt if the Irish electorate will be voting for that option .

    SF’s electorate is important in NI . In the republic it’s very much less important about 7% IIRC.

    ‘ Do you honestly think that any of the partys in Britain actually care about this place? ‘

    What has that got to do with anything apart of course from the 6 billion a year from the English tax payer that helps to prevent the Nordies from eating each other ? Are you suggesting that HMG should cut off the financial lifeline that keeps you lot from descending to Albanian living standards ?