“falls a semantic mile short of a deadline..”

The DUP and Sinn Féin meet for talks, lead apparently by the First and deputy First Ministers.. Meanwhile in the Belfast Telegraph, SF MLA, Mitchel McLaughlin tells us that

In any event, the issue of whether the DUP agreed to the May 2008 deadline for the transfer of policing and justice powers, or indeed subscribed to the introduction of the Irish Language Act, is a red herring.

Which is partly correct. Leaving aside the Irish Language Act, which the UK government stated it would introduce – before devolving the power to do that to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Let’s focus on the real issue here, the devolution of policing and justice powers. After all, why aren’t there more concerns about the absence of the promised Bill of Rights? Mitchel McLaughlin goes on to claim

The real issue is that the DUP, by endorsing the conditions for the restoration of the Assembly, were explicitly accepting the outcome of both sets of political negotiations. The DUP cannot credibly claim that it did not accept the political principles and the legal requirements of both the GFA and St Andrews.

On policing and justice powers, the DUP have accepted the outcome of the political negotiations at St Andrews – the timing of the devolution of those powers is conditional, as I pointed out at the time. The real “real issue” is why, as Mitchel McLaughlin does again, have Sinn Féin continually lied about misrepresented what they actually negotiated at St Andrews? Even the DUP can see that. Eamonn McCann in the Belfast Telegraph spells it out, again.

It’s when you accept the police force that you’ve accepted the State. Herein lies the reason the Sinn Fein ardfheis which last year gave the go-ahead for acceptance of the PSNI added a condition: that control of policing be transferred from Westminster to Stormont — from British to Irish politicians, the Irish politicians including as a crucial element representatives of nationalism in the shape of Sinn Fein. To back the police without securing a share in control for nationalists would be to accept the authority of a State defined by Britishness, not a State which could be represented as being in transition from Britishness to Irishness.

This is what makes devolution of policing a more critical issue for Sinn Fein than for any other party. Which raises another question: why didn’t SF negotiators at St Andrews insist on the issue being tied down? Given its enormous importance for the party, why didn’t they insist on last May as a deadline rather than a target? Why didn’t they get it in writing?

The statement by the two governments which the party is now relying on — “It is our view that the implementation of the (St Andrews) agreement published today should be sufficient to build the community confidence necessary for the Assembly to request the devolution of criminal justice and policing from the British Government by May 2008” — falls a semantic mile short of a deadline.

One school of thought has it that the SF negotiators just had an off day at St Andrews. This hardly seems likely. But what, then? Could it be that they misread their own rank-and-file’s adherence to the ideology they’d fought the war on?

Possibly, Eamonn, possibly..

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  • This is what makes devolution of policing a more critical issue for Sinn Fein than for any other party. Which raises another question: why didn’t SF negotiators at St Andrews insist on the issue being tied down? Given its enormous importance for the party, why didn’t they insist on last May as a deadline rather than a target? Why didn’t they get it in writing?

    What would a promise to devolve policing and justice by a DEADLINE of May 08 be worth in writing given the manner in which the British Government reneged on its commitment to introduce an Irish Language Act. And by passing the buck – and not devolving the power as suggested by Pete – to Stormont, they effectively reneged on their commitment.

  • Mick Fealty

    The obvious response is that there was no deadline for the ILA either. The reason the issue of deadlines became an issue was that the legislation of Oct/Nov 2006 was peppered with binding deadlines. That made the claim plausible, but not credible for anyone who took the time to look at it properly.

  • dunreavynomore

    what would the Quinn family in Cullyhanna make of S.F’s demands for P and J powers given the way S F, from ministers down to councillors have gone out of their way to exonerate ‘republicans’ over the murder of Paul. Interesting to see another arrest in Dundalk this morning over the murder.Also interesting that one of those previously arrested holds an army council (the non existent one) position.

  • Steve

    more spurious unproven allegations used as an excuse to not do what is right

    nIreland is so good at it they must have invented the double standard

  • interested

    I dont dismiss the theory that SF negotiators had a “bad day” at St Andrews.

    They’ve been poor enough for quite some time, its just that its now starting to show more and more. After all, for years SF weren’t actually the prime drivers of negotiations on the nationalist side. It was clear that a combination of the SDLP &/or SF could out-negotiate the UUP. Things have changed though and their previously mythical status of something like chess players where they were about 3 moves ahead of everyone else is well and truly busted.

    Primarily they fell into the trap over a period of a few years that they would inevitably get everything they asked for. Anything which was a mere aspiration, a side note on a piece of paper or a whispered conversation would ultimately come their way. Truth is they got sloppy and when the DUP turned to the tactics of making sure everything they achieved was tied down in legislation it threw a spanner in the SF works because they hadn’t bothered with this and had left it all hanging on aspirational deadlines and promises by the Government which the Governmen itself is largely powerless to do anything about.

    Now the Shinners are reduced to painting postboxes green across the country in an attempt to persuade all the unhappy republicans that the united Ireland is still just a paintbrush away…..

  • percy

    Maybe the real issue is re the IMC
    “In the absence of someone standing up and saying it’s gone away (AC) this is good as we’re going to see.”
    Hugh Orde

  • It looks like SF are in the same position now (with no hard deadlines for devolution of policing and justice) as the Unionists were a few years ago (with no hard deadlines, and lots of noble sentiment, about taking the gun out of politics). Right down to thinking (or claiming) they had more than they were actually given in the small print.

    There will need to be progress on these issues before too long – but maybe, while we’re waiting, we should have a bit of clarity and confidence building from the various sides over how they would like policing and justice to operate?

    I’d guess that part of the problem some unionist politicians have with devolution of these issues is the fear that ex freedom fighters might put some of their their thieving and murdering mates in positions of power, or be soft on illegality from their former comrades in arms.

    Actually, being soft on paramilitaries, and giving informers too much leeway is also a problem for the current administration. So some clarity all round would be good.

    As a citizen, it would be nice to know what to expect from our elected public servants…

  • By passing the buck back to Stormont, Mick, the British Government ensured the Irish language Act would get bogged down in a sectarian bloodbath and so to claim that it wasn’t bound by deadline is missing the point. Even if it were bound by a deadline, it wouldn’t be enacted as long as the DUP continued to act in bad faith regarding the agreement they signed up to at St Andrews and from which they derive their current position of power.

    The British reneged on their commitment re the Irish Language Act. It’s time for the Irish Government to call them on it.

  • Richard James

    “By passing the buck back to Stormont, Mick, the British Government ensured the Irish language Act would get bogged down in a sectarian bloodbath and so to claim that it wasn’t bound by deadline is missing the point.”

    Alas Republicans can’t claim “every word spoken is another bullet fired in our struggle” and then whine the ensuing sectarian bloodbath it causes.

    “Even if it were bound by a deadline, it wouldn’t be enacted as long as the DUP continued to act in bad faith regarding the agreement they signed up to at St Andrews and from which they derive their current position of power.”

    The DUP signed up to an Irish Language Act in the same way Sinn Fein/IRA agreed to decommission in the Belfast Agreement. History repeats itself first as tragedy then farce :o)

    “The British reneged on their commitment re the Irish Language Act. It’s time for the Irish Government to call them on it.”

    Call, wail, gnash their teeth; in the end there is little the Irish statelet can do.

  • Red Diesel Republican

    Alderdice was a model of concise clarity this time in contrast with his twisting on the Quinn murder a few months back. I believe him – the Army Council is gone, but that is not the end of the problem and one wonders a little at the IMC understanding of republican structures and practices. It’s a bit like thinking you could get rid of Catholicism by breaking up the Bishops Conference. At operational level the Provos were always confederal. Never mind the Army Council, disband the South Armagh Battalion Command which definitely has not gone away.Or perhaps that is the ex-Command composed of ex-members of the ex-Provisional ex-IRA. However you look at it this is a viable, non-defunct, operational and higly active structure completely loyal to the Provisional leadership wherever that leadership now sits or how it styles itself. More importantly, the Provisional political leadership is completely loyal to it, as witnessed by Sinn Fein attacks on the PSNI and Gardai for their arrests in the Quinn murder case.

  • dunreavynomore

    Red diesel,
    you’re on the ball. It is worth remembering Connor Murphy telling the world that he had gone to the Ira who had told him that they did not kill Paul Quinn. Seems they didn’t say, “Can’t talk Connor, like the famous Norwegian Blue parrot we have ceased to be, we are defunct we are an ex army council!” No, they were alive enough to deny murder.

  • Richard,
    No doubt SF have made mistakes in regard to the Irish Language in the past and that statement, taken out of its context, is being used by some unionists, who would seize on anything, to hamper progress. However to gloat, as you do, on the reneging by the British government on a commitment entered into solemnly doesn’t do anything for your cause. To compare it with decommissioning is a bit far fetched also – the DUP are acting like the way the DUP act. This is about the British Government – and I’m not suggesting that the Irish government wail or whatever. I am suggesting that the Irish government attach conditions regarding the promotion of Irish to the £60m millions they’ve promised the innovation fund north of the border. They could also withdraw the permission for Belfast offices of Financial Sector companies based in Dublin to avail of the Dublin tax rate until such time as the Irish Language Act commitment is delivered.

  • percy

    Red/Dunreavy
    I fear you’re both right. SArmagh Structures have just always been off-limits for the peace process and the Brits.
    [play the ball – edited moderator]

  • Ulsters my homeland

    …and IRA/sinn fein still insist no Republicans are involved in the Quinn murder. do these people have a conscience?

  • And the DUP/UFF/UVF insist no loyalists were involved in the murder of the Quinn children – do these people have no conscience?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[/i]And the DUP/UFF/UVF insist no loyalists were involved in the murder of the Quinn children – do these people have no conscience? “[/i]

    Stop telling your fucking lies. When did the DUP say this? Ex DUP councillor Davy Tweed said the attack was not sectarian, when did the DUP mention that loyalists were not involved?

    and when did the UFF mention anything about it? since it was said to be carried out by the UVF.

    Get your facts right, [Play the ball – edited moderator]

  • I’m glad the the moderator edited this – or did he.

    You said it yourself that Davy Tweed said the attack wasn’t sectarian. As if. And I recall at the time Dr Paisley was anxious to muddy the waters over the involvement of loyalists. I also recall the march of shame by the Apprentice Boys on the Lower Ormeau when they insisted on going on their feeder march despite the atrocity which was being reported that very morning. Do these people have no conscience?

    If you want to resort to foul sectarian abuse, go on ahead. You’re merely reverting to type. I made the observation I made in response to your 08.46 ‘holier than thou’ posting. The tendency by some unionist commenters to seize on murders committed by the IRA and express supposed sympathy for victims and forget the murders committed by their own displays sheer hypocrisy and wilful myopia.

  • The above analysis by McCann asks:
    “why didn’t SF negotiators at St Andrews insist on the issue being tied down? Given its enormous importance for the party, why didn’t they insist on last May as a deadline rather than a target? Why didn’t they get it in writing?”

    The answer in my view is that they knew they wouldn’t get it because the DUP couldn’t concede it. The issue of primary importance to SF was to get the DUP into powersharing and they knew no deal would come if DUP had to give a cast iron commitment to a P&J;deadline. As it was, the StA agreement has caused a split of sorts in the DUP. Because there is always someone to the right of you in Unionism / Loyalism, the DUP could not commit to a firm P&J;deadline. SF knew this and made the deal with the diluted commitment on offer.

    This is a timing thing, as the DUP can’t stall forever, particularly after the IMC report this week. To paraphrase Hugh Orde – this is as good as it gets lads…

  • Does anyone know what our elected leaders intend to do with policing and justice powers if they get them?

    Or is it just too much fun allocating the blame to think about tedious details like policy?