It’ll all be over by Christmas

Alasdair McDonnell has acused Gerry Adams of trying to bring down the NI Assembly. He accused him of starting a:

“…blame game ahead of a Sinn Féin inspired crisis at the heart of government. No one is being fooled by Adams’s strategy which would see the Assembly down by Christmas and everyone can see how he is trying to ensure his party, who must take the lion’s share of the responsibility, do not bear the brunt of the blame.”

  • setting the measured dislike that sinn fein and the sdlp have for each other aside…

    it is interesting to hear Mr McDonnell say this.

  • jer

    So is everyone going into general election mode. Are they thinking that August will see a Brownian implosion?

  • slug

    Interesting positioning from SDLP/FF.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Election mode? August? Are you new? Um, GYAC: That’s the holiday month in Britain.

    And if you have been reading the papers or watching the news you’ll have seen that Brown may get some respite from the by-election fall-out because it’s the summer.

    Even if Labour were to dump Brown, they’re not likely to call an election for two more years.

    Elections tend to be held at certain months of the year and even on certain days of the week. That’s *generally* speaking. So, don’t be seeking nomination in your constituency just yet, I’d say.

  • Chris Donnelly

    slug

    Far too soon for talk of SDLP/FF- Cowan has kicked that one to touch.

    This is more a case of McDonnell looking after his own parliamentary patch, which ironically has been made that little bet less vulnerable by the DUP homophobia comments of late.

  • Mike

    Billie-Joe

    “Even if Labour were to dump Brown, they’re not likely to call an election for two more years.”

    Actually the consensus is that if Labour were to oust Brown in favour of a new leader, he/she would pretty much be obliged to call a general election – otherwise in the life of one parliament Labour would have chosen TWO new Prime Ministers without reference to the electorate.

  • George

    Seems like a complete no-brainer for SF to put the brakes on the Assembly.

    Policing and Justice is becoming more and more like the decomissioning saga by the day, except this time around SF are on the easy side.

    SF can cite the President of the United States, the NI Secretary of State etc about how essential it is these powers get devolved and then simply sit back and watch the whole thing collapse.

    They’ll repeat ad nauseum how the DUP isn’t ready to share power and there is nothing the DUP can show to the contrary. The DUP have played a unionist blinder or should that be binder.

    As for the SDLP, they stil end up looking like the party of pushover nationalism in all this.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Gosh, it must be fun living in the Adams household…..Dinner on the table by 5:00pm or it’s off to the divorce office.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    “Gosh, it must be fun living in the Adams household…..Dinner on the table by 5:00pm or it’s off to the divorce office.”

    Ha ha ha. Brilliant. Oh, no. Wait a minute, that was really shit. Do you write for the Hole in the Wall Gang? You’re Nuala McKeever, aren’t you?

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Mike: “otherwise in the life of one parliament Labour would have chosen TWO new Prime Ministers without reference to the electorate.”

    Good point.

  • Traditional_Unionist

    does anyone really care if the assembly collapses?

    what has it achieved? what meaningful legislation has been passed through it?

    would we even notice the difference?

    I say let it collapse, but the first thing to be done after this is to stop the MLA’s wages straight away. none of this nonsense of still getting paid like last time!

  • Quagmire

    Bring the whole thing down, its a waste of time. This place is ungovernable within a 6 county context. In my opinion, if Stormont collapses it will be for the last time. After this period the concept of power sharing in our wee country will be resigned to the history books, never to be returned to again. The blame for this will rest solely at the feet of the DUP and unionist intransigence because they wouldn’t agree on the transfer of P&J;, even though London, Dublin and Washington thinks its about time, and the ever dreaded Irish Language act (Sky falls in). Its about the politics of compromise and the DUP have clearly illustrated that they are incapable of doing this because of fears in relation to the backward, backwoods men within their party and of course the perceived threat of TUV. I honestly believe that Robinson wants to lead and indeed compromise on these issues but is being held back by the afore mentioned obstacles. However that is not a good enough excuse for stagnation or stalling. He is leader thusly he should lead. Does anybody think for one second that it was easy for Adams and co to deliver on policing? In these challenges the SF leadership also faced similar adversity but they overcame these difficulties and showed good leadership on the issue and Robinson should do the same. Yes, he will face criticism and yes a number of people might fall of the wagon during the journey but that, my friends, is the nature of the beast. If he fails to do this, then I’m afraid its back to direct rule, with greater Dublin involvement and an Irish language act will happen anyway. Indeed it will remain in this fashion until the dreaded unionist doomsday scenario of 50+1, which will eventually come, and I for one am quite happy to live with those circumstances. Are you Peter?

  • George

    As for the SDLP, they stil end up looking like the party of pushover nationalism in all this.

    I suppose Sinn Fein will look like the party of competence rather than the party of incompetence who couldn’t handle the DUP.

  • Greenflag

    George ,

    ‘As for the SDLP, they still end up looking like the party of pushover nationalism in all this.’

    SS – Sunningdale symptom come again.

    Trad Unionist

    ‘what has it achieved? what meaningful legislation has been passed through it? ‘

    Before or after they went on their holidays ?

    ‘would we even notice the difference? ‘

    Apart from a few clever phot op moments I doubt it .

    ‘I say let it collapse, but the first thing to be done after this is to stop the MLA’s wages straight away. none of this nonsense of still getting paid like last time!’

    100% -There’s been enough waste of the English taxpayer’s hard earned monies .

    Quagmire ,

    ‘Bring the whole thing down, its a waste of time This place is ungovernable within a 6 county context.’

    Sad but true .

    ‘ The blame for this will rest solely at the feet of the DUP and unionist intransigence because they wouldn’t agree on the transfer of P&J;, even though London, Dublin and Washington thinks its about time, and the ever dreaded Irish Language act (Sky falls in).’

    Not at all . Each side will blame the other for ever and ever, as it was in the beginning , is now , and forever shall be Amen 🙁

    ‘I honestly believe that Robinson wants to lead He is leader thus he should lead’.

    Nice theory . In real life ‘leadership ‘ among Politician Unionists in Northern Ireland has been defined as basically following the direction of the mob . Any Unionist leader who decided NOT to follow the mob has always had to find a new career .e.g Capt O’Neill, Brian Faulkner , David Trimble etc . Those who do /did actually nothing Lord Molyneaux tend to survive longer . Paisley was a bit of an anomaly as he only followed God 🙂

    and now it’s Robo’s time . Feel sorry for the poor sod already what with the ole china shouting off her mouth etc etc 🙁

  • George

    John,
    “I suppose Sinn Fein will look like the party of competence rather than the party of incompetence who couldn’t handle the DUP.”

    It depends on how highly one values the “Agreement”. Nationalists have got what they needed most from the agreement, an end to the zero sum game of violence and “fighting” the British.

    Compared to getting out of that mess, the fate of a glorified county council on top of the hill that lends credence to the border is neither here nor there.

    Instead, not letting the DUP get its way is handling enough for most Sinn Féin voters.

    After all, even countenancing a partitionist parliament is a huge compromise for many so letting it fade away into oblivion won’t be looked upon as any kind of loss. Not least because it’s unionism that will suffer most from such a loss because unionism is the ideology that wants Northern Ireland to continue as a devolved cog in the reconstructed Union machine.

    The fact that Northern Ireland can’t even manage that merely reinforces the common-held view that the place is a failed entity, both politically and economically.

  • George

    So your saying it is Bosnia or bust before Christmas?

  • George

    John O’Connell,
    not at all, I’m saying it’s back to the holding pattern of the last 30 odd years – direct rule.

    The devolved parliament with no tax-raising powers and an incredible 108 members was a sop that was not and is not really necessary.

    It was up to the 108 saps to lend this sham of a parliament some credence and it looks like they are going to fail.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]I’m saying it’s back to the holding pattern of the last 30 odd years – direct rule.”[/i]

    You’re off target George. Westminster and more importantly the N.Ireland public do not want direct rule, they’re quite happy with the current situation. The Adams fiasco is simply that, an Adams family fiasco. He’s trying to win a blind, but the longer he calls the bluff his P+J and ILA demands will alienate the N.Ireland people. His only option is to accept the status quo and then work on redeveloping IRA/Sinn Fein as a unionist friendly party.

  • George

    Wishful thinking on your part.

    Do you really think that Nationalists will go for that without some violence from dissidents which may in turn lead to a real upsurge in violent acts in this vacuum you talk about where, it has to be said, unionism has had a minor triumph and Nationalism has been humiliated?

  • Dave

    “After all, even countenancing a partitionist parliament is a huge compromise for many so letting it fade away into oblivion won’t be looked upon as any kind of loss.”

    It’s only a compromise if you believe the nationalist rhetoric that opposed it rather than the actions of the nationalist politicians who signed up to a process that had a return to Stormont as its core dynamic. Since the peace strategy of the SDLP and the Irish government was to bring the Shinners into the political process, that strategy requires that you actually have a political process! You can’t expect political actors to perform on a political stage if you neglect to supply the actors with that stage.

    Also, apart from being crucial to the peace process strategy of supplying an alternative to violence, you need to see Stormont as being crucial to the selfish interests of political parties, providing their members, hacks, and hangers-on with an additional source of lucrative careers that are funded by the taxpayer. A political party that cannot offer a sufficient quantity of parliamentary careers to its supporters cannot hope to attract a class of people who will serves its interests in order to serve their own – the more pigs you can feed at a trough, the more pigs who will squeal in support of your cause.

    The Downing Street Declaration stated that “the democratic right of self-determination by the people of Ireland as a whole must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland.” So, the Unionist Veto that was rebranded in the GFA as the Principle of Consent was extended in 1993 to give a veto to pro-British interests over the right to self-determination of all of the citizens of Ireland rather than just the citizens of Northern Ireland. Whatever these people are, they aren’t Irish nationalists – just opportunistic whores looking for a way out of the mess that the Shinners created for them.

  • George

    John O’Connell,
    I’m not wishing anything, just giving an opinion. As for humiliated, I don’t really think so. Northern nationalism is and always has been in a bind. As a result, “interim” solutions like the latest Stormont gag have always held a certain caché, not least because they were an improvement of what went before.

    But when we look at the real world it’s all a sideshow. Virtually every political, cultural or economic dynamic on this island is happening south of the border, not north of it. This disparity will have its consequences for Northern Ireland in the long term.

    It’s at its clearest when you look at the strength of Anglo-Irish relations (trade and politics) and compare it to the NI-GB one or even the ROI-NI one.

    Dave,
    The Downing Street Declaration was made at a time of the constitutional claim so the relevance of that quote is insignificant in the wake of the Good Friday agreement.

    It’s like quoting comments during negotiations after the treaty has been signed.

    That said, I do share much of your unease about what I may call the dysfunctional northern Trojan horse at the Irish Republic’s gates.

  • Interesting stuff George:

    “…not letting the DUP get its way is handling enough for most Sinn Féin voters.

    After all, even countenancing a partitionist parliament is a huge compromise for many so letting it fade away into oblivion won’t be looked upon as any kind of loss. Not least because it’s unionism that will suffer most from such a loss because unionism is the ideology that wants Northern Ireland to continue as a devolved cog in the reconstructed Union machine.”

    I don’t think this particularly diverges from what has been conventional wisdom for many within Northern Irish nationalism. At its centre is an article of faith that, regardless of anything that actually happens, Irish Nationalism will ultimately win all the arguments, no matter how bad things get.

    The problem is that such an approach gives rise to the kind of complacency we’ve seen taking a hold of the left (well okay, I mean the Labour Party) in Britain. Of course, being convinced of the merits of your own arguments is a pre-requisite to winning out eventually. But there is an element of wider nationalist thinking that simply believes that there is some kind of historic progression in train, so that even if they do nothing a united Ireland will somehow materialise out of the ether.

    In the meantime were the whole edifice to fall, nationalist ambitions would continue to subsist on the kind of zero sum game that limits benefits for all parties (possibly for generations) in a Mr Micawber (who ended up in a debtor’s prison after failing to meet the demands of his creditors)-like certainty that political unity will (eventually) turn up.

    This is not a particularly useful state of mind for any political project to allow itself or its supporters to fall into as it can give rise to a sort of political indolence, which may have the effect of pushing the desired objective (unification) further away from being the likely outcome rather than bringing it closer.

  • George

    Mick,
    the issues you highlight would certainly hold within them huge dangers for Irish nationalism as a whole if Irish nationalism stopped at the border. But it doesn’t.

    The heart and soul of Irish nationalism (and majority of its people) is the Irish Republic. Only if it fails does the Irish “national project” fail. But if anything, the Irish Republic is finally beginning to shake off the complacency and indolence that has plagued it since the War of Independence.

    In the meantime, northern nationalists have, some would say understandably, spent the last 80 plus years jumping from one incredible fudge to another in an attempt to make sense of the situation that partition has left them in.

    And if I understand people like Dave correctly, it is this willingness to fudge on almost anything that he believes holds serious dangers for the Irish self-determination project as a whole (and with it the current cohesion of the State) if it was to be introduced to the southern body politik.

    Northern nationalism and unionism have been boxing each other to a standstill since partition and in the heat of the fight it was easy for both sides to forget that others are involved.

    Nationalists may appear to be happy not to buy in to the idea of a fully functioning Northern Ireland if it seems to involve a cementing of the region’s place in the UK but equally unionism appears more than content to forego the idea of a fully functioning Northern Ireland if it involves increasing the possibility of the region ceding to the Irish Republic.

    That may have worked for the first 70 years of Northern Ireland’s existence when the main British and Irish body politik at best fostered this attitude, and at worst allowed this attitude to fester. The fact that the Republic was economically so far behind didn’t help either.

    But we are in a brave new world since the growth of the Irish economy and the Good Friday Agreement, which has sidelined both traditions from the greater Anglo-Irish picture. Ireland (Republic of) and Britain have now moved on and are actively working together for their mutual self-interest.

    In this new environment both sides in NI can continue to be convinced of the merits of their own arguments and I agree with you when you say that “nationalist ambitions would continue to subsist on the kind of zero sum game that limits benefits for all parties” but the exact same can be said of unionist ambitions.

    The belief that you are pushing the objective of unification further away does not automatically mean that the Union is being strengthened.

    Ireland and Britain will continue to strengthen their trading, political and cultural links while Northern Ireland will continue to be sidelined.

    In short, it’s not nationalism or unionism that will be the loser, it’s Northern Ireland and its people.

    When they’ve lost so much that it is as plain as the noses on their faces that are being left behind, maybe then the penny will finally drop.

    The principle of consent means make up your minds.

  • PaddyReilly

    But there is an element of wider nationalist thinking that simply believes that there is some kind of historic progression in train, so that even if they do nothing a united Ireland will somehow materialise out of the ether.

    Mr Micawber was an optimist who believed that ‘something will turn up’. And indeed it did: he got out of debtors prison and ended up in Australia- as a magistrate. You must have missed the last chapter. The principle of Micawberism has been translated into Irish as Mair-a-bhó-agus-gheobhair-féar-achas. A very useful principle: how many cows in Ireland die of starvation?

    But Mr Micawber was only one man who really should have taken charge of his destiny by spending less and earning more. Nationalism is a political movement which is snowballing at a very satisfactory rate, which strangely enough, is consistent. This is probably because Nationalism is an aggregate and does not share in the more variable fate of political parties like SF and SDLP. Also it is more similar to an ethnic movement than a class based one. As I calculated it, the Unionist and Nationalist vote would be neck and neck as of January 2008. Nothing has happened since then to disprove my hypothesis.

    Unusually, there has been no election in NI this year. Thus, Unionists have been spared the prospect of watching their vote diminish even further. Unionism is already a minority voice: it needs second preferences from Alliance and Green voters to cling on to what power it still possesses. But from now on, elections in NI will be like the bolts of electricity sent though prisoners in the electric chair: if this one isn’t fatal, probably the next one will be.

    I don’t like the idea that something needs to be done: such solutions, in Ireland, are usually detonatory. What else can be done? I suppose if SF were to espouse new moderation and merge with the SDLP, that would be something, but it’s not going to happen and in any case would probably lead to the further rise of RSF.

    Building new housing estates in which is it would be safe for Catholics to live in strategic constituencies might help, but it does seem a little underhand. These things are happening anyway.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “Ireland and Britain will continue to strengthen their trading, political and cultural links while Northern Ireland will continue to be sidelined.

    In short, it’s not nationalism or unionism that will be the loser, it’s Northern Ireland and its people.”

    George, I hope you’ve considered Scotland into the equation, not just London and Dublin. If the Scottish parliament and the N.Ireland assembly decided to build a bridge between both countries, the scenario you just mentioned would change dramatically.

  • Mick Fealty

    George,

    There is sense in what you say there. But what’s missing is an analysis which can differentiate between an internal party crisis (such as the one that’s pushed SF towards a threatening a wrecking ball approach) and a genuine constitutional crisis.

    If you read this current crisis as the former then much of what you say falls neatly into place. If the latter (which is broadly my own view) it becomes something closer to the variable nature of party politics that Paddy has outlined.

    Paddy,

    We’re likely to be spared another election until the 2010 Westminster elections. Let’s park your idea on voting patterns until then when it should get a proper testing?

  • George

    Mick,
    I think “crisis” is far too strong a word for where Sinn Féin is. The Assembly collapsing won’t hurt Sinn Féin in the slightest because on the surface it still looks like the DUP (aka unionism) is unwilling to share what limited power the Assembly has.

    Justice/Policing seems to have been made the litmus test by nationalism just like unionism made decommissioning its litmus test a decade ago.

    Back then unionism put out the line that the Assembly wasn’t needed if the price was too high but this time it’s nationalism that doesn’t need Stormont so unless there’s a magic Plan B that can be used to bully it into continuing on making the pilgrimage to the hill then there is no pressure on Sinn Féin to comply. Apart from the smell of the trough naturally.

    Sinn Féin can simply say they only want implemented what the President of the United States wants implemented, what the British and Irish Governments want implemented, what the international business community wants implemented.

    And what can unionism say in reply? As I said earlier, this really is a no-brainer for Sinn Féin. Hell they could even get something out of Cowen for going back in at a later stage.

    Naturally, this attidude could engender a full-blown unionist crisis, which would add a whole new dynamic to the situation.

    Ulsters my Homeland,
    I hope you’ve considered Scotland into the equation, not just London and Dublin. If the Scottish parliament and the N.Ireland assembly decided to build a bridge between both countries, the scenario you just mentioned would change dramatically.

    The only “country” on the island of Ireland that an independent Scotland can build a bridge with is the Irish Republic.

    In such a case, Northern Ireland would be a rump region of the UK with little or no economic autonomy. What’s in it for Scotland?

    While Northern Ireland quarreled with itself, Ireland (Republic of) cornered the “Ireland” market. If you want to do business or make contacts on the island of Ireland, Dublin is now the first port of call. That is the reality in 2008.

    Why on earth would Scotland post independence look to the part of Ireland that is stagnating economically, divided culturally and retarded politically?

    What doors can Peter Robinson open that Brian Cowen can’t? What levers of power does he have his hands on?

    I fully accept that in an ideal world Northern Ireland would be at the forefront of any bridge-building exercise between this island and an independent Scotland but NI should still be an economic powerhouse on this island with its politicians driving for ever more autonomy to improve the lot of their people.

    Instead you have demands for ever more subventions, “peace” walls dividing its main city, silly buggers overs stadiums and Irish language acts and petty brinksmanship on everything from policing to education.

    Northern Ireland, as currently constituted and currently functioning, has nothing to offer Scotland.

  • Paddyreilly

    Let’s park your idea on voting patterns until then when it should get a proper testing?

    For God’s sake, how many elections do we have to have before you’ll admit there’s a consistent pattern? In any case, there is a European Parliament election due next year. The pattern in these is always the same: Unionist vote down by an average of 2.5% since the least one. Given that the Unionist vote was 48.6% then IIRC, it should be a cliffhanger. In the meantime perhaps you might like to explain to us how you intend to mutate your mutandum and bring it ultimately to passible factivity?

  • Merry Christmas!