The Government’s gone missing…

Paul Bew once famously christened (back in 2003, I think) the prospect of Sinn Fein and the DUP working together as a Hitler Stalin Pact: ie that it might work for a while, but only in the short term. I’ve always been sceptical of that view, and remain so. Yet in recent weeks (most notably since the 8th May passed with no resolution of the devolution of Policing and Justice, and before the new FM took over) things have be far from smooth. Now it seems that Sinn Fein and the DUP cancelled last week’s Executive meeting. Reg Empey:

“When there is a failure to meet, discussions are postponed, leading the public to question the Executive’s maturity to take on additional responsibilities such as policing and justice. If people don’t feel that we have done enough on bread and butter issues then how can we take [policing and justice powers] on?”

This last may be a reference to Martina Anderson’s complaint that at the limited fiscal competences of the Assembly. An SDLP ‘source’ agreed with Empey:

“Reg is absolutely right, it’s actually much worse than that. What’s more, things have worsened under the new [DUP] leadership. Issues have not been progressed, leading to a build-up of non-contentious stuff. The DUP and Sinn Féin are in total control of the Executive’s agenda. It seems that Sinn Féin is fighting back against the DUP’s ‘triple lock’ veto on policing and justice.”

The reason for the hiatus at the top of government is the ongoing discussions between the two big parties:

Sinn Féin and the DUP are involved in discussions as people know . . . They are aimed at resolving a range of outstanding issues, issues both inside and outside the Executive including the transfer of powers on policing and justice. Those discussions are ongoing.”

It would appear that this mandatory coalition is mandatory only when it suits ‘Hitler and Stalin’ for it to be so. It appears to be part of Sinn Fein’s ongoing efforts to ‘interfere with that indigenous deal’ “put together by SF and the DUP”.

There is more than a sense that the optics being played for all they are worth. But in putting their own bilateral disputes ahead of their mandatory Executive duties, they are treating the Institutions they lauded just last year with contempt. Yet the truth is, neither party has much alternative but to make this work. But that should be in the transparent interest of the people of Northern Ireland.

In the meantime, they will continue to lift Ministerial salaries, whilst immersing themselves in secret, and extra governmental disputes.

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  • iluvni

    I assume given their support for the people having a chance to have their say in the Republic’s referendum last month, Sinn Fein will insist on any new agreement with the DUP be put to the people up here for approval/rejection too.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Well, well, well Wee Reggie and the SDLP are not happy. Well lets be honest they are probably secretly delighted, in the same way the Tories are delighted that the economy has gone mammaries up and ditto Fine Gael – because that is the only way for them to get inot power. That is the beauty of being in opposition – you are dependent upon your own country going arseways. So let’s not attach to much importance to Reggie ramblings. Robbo is trying desperately to magic up the ‘confidence’ of the Unionist people for the transfer of Police and Justice to avoid Dublin interfernece and also trying to avoid giving the green light to the the Bobby Sands and the Hunger Strikers stadium without having Non Iron games played in Scotland. The boy Robbo needs space, and luckily enough, having wee Reggie and Co pissing into the tent from outside is probably not going to slow things down nearly as much as they would like.

  • Different Drummer

    Yes Bew’s does appear to be more right than wrong now on the pact. A well known anti-agreement unionist and close friend of Lord Bew predicted that the fiction of ‘DUP-SF’ non-agression pact would break on the gay rights issue as neither side could pretend to look the other way.

    That was BI – before Iris.

    If policing and justice is devolved to Stormont, then the issue will again become a make or brake one for SF as the ‘defenders’ of Equality.

    But according to Lord Rooker the new rights brought in by Westminster will need a sufficent Stormont majority of 55% to be revoked. Can’t see that stopping the DUP, Jim Alister and the Loyalist ‘others’ running another ‘unite and hate’ campaign.

  • Dave

    Oh dear… time again to get out the game theory model “The Prisoners’ Dilemma” to prop-up public confidence in this farce, eh?

  • Mick Fealty

    Well done Sam. When it comes to seeing the trees rather than the wood, we can always rely on you. As the Telegraph’s obit boys put it, yesterday: “all political motives are flawed and that information must be judged accordingly.”

    Dave, not from me. For now at least. This manoeuvring looks ‘fake’ in the sense that SF’s current position is falsified by Adams’ statement last year that no one should interfere with ‘the indigenous settlement’.

    Of course, it could fall; Prisoner’s Dilemma, or not. But I also cannot help feeling that that is precisely what we are all supposed to think. or now, this looks like a party (once again) treating their duty as elected public servants with contempt than a genuine governmental impasse.

  • I think you will find, Mick, that it takes two to tango and these games are a two way street with the DUP treating SF, their coalition and ‘pact’ partner, as opposition when it suited them. That couldn’t continue – the diarrhoea of statements from the DUP crowing over this setback or other for SF – no party is going to wear that for too long without coming with an alternative plan of campaign, which I think is the reason behind the latest manoeuvrings. And that’s as much a part of good government, finding a way of getting things done, as anything else is.

  • Mick Fealty


    I don’t doubt that the DUP’s unwillingness to do a supplementary deal to the one struck at St Andrews has created a lot of frustration amongst Republicans. But the key difference is that one of them is acting within the terms of last ‘indigenous deal’, and the other isn’t.

    I can sympathise with the frustration, but only up to the point which Sinn Fein signed off on the deal that locked them into this situation. That’s a fairly straightforward call.

    The party was not drugged, abducted and imprisoned against its will into this position. It helped to build this innately conservative settlement and agreed to its range, size and dimensions.

    This is something it was happy to proclaim from the roof tops last year, but (after 12+ months of disseminating misleading information on the deadline/target date issue) is now looking to spread the blame for.

    Returning to the para political tactics of former days is a risky game. Apart from anything else, it does not build confidence in the statesmanship required to make a bigger impression in the south.

  • Garibaldy

    It is ridiculous that they can pull this sort of stunt. And speaks volumes about their attitudes. I wonder how much of this is related to the fact it’s nearly July 12th.

  • ulsterfan

    Perhaps SF were reluctant to attend in case anyone asked them if they had a policy on Education which required cross commmunity support.

  • Garibaldy

    You probably could have finished that sentence at the word education.

  • Mick.
    They both need each other, because they both need to be at the top table.

    They will work it out-they have to.

  • qubol

    “But the key difference is that one of them is acting within the terms of last ‘indigenous deal’, and the other isn’t.”

    Mick, You seem to think that Sinn Fein are bound to make this work for all of ‘Norn Iron’. They aren’t. If the current process isn’t delivering then turn it on it’s head and make a new direction. Sinn Fein are bound to their constituency and core philosphy – delivering a United Ireland. As a Sinn Fein voter I would expect nothing less. If the indigenous deal can deliver then let’s make it work if not why on earth (regardless of agreements) would you work to it. Just because we have mandatory coalition that doesn’t mean we’ll forget what we want.

    I think you need to think outside the box, set the queensbury rules to the side.

    In addition to your point about the south – Sinn Feins best hope for the south is to make it as a coalition partner, something that (with a little more time and circumstances allowing) is foreseeable with or without more progress in the north. The north isn’t the issue for Sinn Fein in the south it’s their policies.

  • Mick Fealty

    Delivery to the constituency is key, certainly. And you are right to expect nothing less. Can’t disagree there. And I wish them luck in finding a new deal they can sell back to that constituency.

    But here’s the thing. These are not Queensbury rules, they are SF’s rules. Yet it has been blindingly obvious that the three things that is exercising the party now, were not going to be achievable by the time the SAA was signed.

    That is: P & J devolved in a time-frame agreeable to SF and its expectant party activists; the end of selective education in the state sector; and the introduction of an Irish Language Act over the heads of unionists.

    To that extent SF sold its constituency three pigs in a poke. However it seems, I am not having a go at the party. There are signs that some Ministers are getting down to work and getting to grips with the kinds of skill and profile that will ultimately make the party more electable in the south.

    But it is impossible for any keen observer to ignore that on most of these residual issues the party has been highly economical with the truth.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it


    “To that extent SF sold its constituency three pigs in a poke”

    Let me ask you one simple question on one of those alleged porkers – which party DUP or Sinn Fein has the most difficulty with the current impasse with the Transfer/Non Transfer of Police and Justice.

  • Mick Fealty


    I believe it is the ‘indigenous’ system has the problem. What we have here is an ‘indigenous suspension’ of Executive business, and therefore of local government, on the quiet.

    As for your question, I’ll give you the answer my dad gave me when as a kid I asked who was winning in whatever cricket test match he was glued at the time. “You cannot tell whose one until the match is over”.

    It will all/some/none* of it come out in the wash.

    * delete as appropriate.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it


    given that you are outlining SFs difficulties it is hardy ‘futuring’, or whatever you call it, to comapre these difficulties on a specific issue (Police and Justice ) with those of the DUP.

    To draw on your cricketing metaphor, a sport I thoroughally enjoy but understand little of ( a bit like Non Iron politics? ) your postion that Police and Justice is a matter best described as ‘indigenous’ – given that it a key understanding betwen the SF and the Englezes and crucial to the peace process – could perhaps be best decribed as silly mid off?