“OK, you can say that the governments didn’t extract that from everyone in writing…”

Frank Millar has a book out from the Irish Academic Press called ‘Northern Ireland – A Triumph of Politics’ coming out this Autumn. In it he has a series of candid interviews with figures from Northern Irish politics over a considerable period of time. One of the most interesting is one with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who throws him a particularly juicy line of argument regarding that controversial deadline/timetable controversy:Giving his account of the vital negotiations preceding the DUP/Sinn Fein deal that saw the Rev Ian Paisley installed as First Minister, Mr Ahern tells Frank Millar:

“Paisley could never have made the move he made unless there was an acceptance that policing was going to work. And the Shinners could never have made the decision unless there was an acceptance of the devolution of policing. That was the quid pro quo, which is hugely important.”

With that issue left for new First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to resolve, Mr Ahern, in an interview recorded after he left office in May, emphasised his belief in a prior understanding between the two sides. “Just remember on that point, because I did that bit of the negotiations myself with Ian and with Gerry Adams,” he told the author, “and it was the quid pro quo”.

When asked if he feared Sinn Fein might be tempted to “flex muscle” and set an early “test” for the new Robinson leadership over issues like the devolution of policing and justice powers, Mr Ahern said he thought not, while repeating that “Sinn Fein had a cast iron guarantee that 1st May (2008) was the deadline’ for achieving it.

The chapter ‘Ireland at Peace’ continues: “(Millar) Cast iron? (Ahern) ‘It was absolutely crystal clear from the British Government and from everybody else.’ But from the DUP? ‘Everybody that would move… I mean there’s no doubt May was the date.’ Yet the DUP has consistently said it never signed up for May 2008? ‘Yeah, well, I mean listen,’ says Mr Ahern, clearly unimpressed with any protestations to the contrary now: ‘The devolution of policing from May was part of the deal in my view. OK, you can say that the governments didn’t extract that from everyone in writing but it was what the two governments agreed and everybody else agreed.”

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  • percy

    There we have it, P&J;was part of the bigger picture.

    Bit of a slap in the face for detail-addicted junkies.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Mick

    It’s interesting that you headline the piece with that line, particularly as Ahern is very clearly accusing the DUP of reneging on agreements reached.

    Terms like “cast iron guarantee” and “quid pro quo” very clearly indicate that, as far as Ahern is concerned, the DUP stand indicted for refusing to adhere to the May date reached as a result of negotiations.

    Taken together with Brown’s statements yesterday regarding the devolution of policing and justice, I’d say it suggests quite clearly that both governments are firmly placing the onus on the DUP to move at this juncture and, ergo, also indicating who should be blamed if things unravel in the coming weeks.

    It’ll be interesting to hear if the US administration were privy to any agreements reached.

    Of course, none of that will necessarily shift the DUP from their stance.

  • DC

    Micro-management is mismanagement.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    We’ve finally got a thread where all the big players are mentioned be they British/Irish/Ulster or whatever.

    Can someone tell me how many United Irishmen actually became Unionists?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    this part of history has become interesting in my life and I would appreciate it if anyone could direct me to impartial information of those United Irishmen who became Unionists, instead of the old Irish stuff.

  • dewi

    Yeah – that’s probably how it played. Strangely I appreciate Robinson’s dilemma – but a bit of courage (after all it’s DUP poicy to devolve P and J) will get this through.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Hello, Can you ask the Taoiseach how many united Irishmen became Unionists, thanks

  • Pete Baker

    Mick

    Perhaps, in the circumstances, the most interesting revelation from Ahern is this line –

    “because I did that bit of the negotiations myself with Ian and with Gerry Adams..”

    The rest of Bertie’s claims fit a familiar pattern of offering political cover to those under most pressure.

    “OK, you can say that the governments didn’t extract that from everyone in writing..”

    Indeed. Wonder why that was..

    In the meantime, we have what they did agree in writing.

  • qubol

    Pete Baker: “[Sinn Fein…] having had their claims of an imaginary DUP commitment to devolve policing and justice powers by May 2008 comprehensively rebutted”

    Hmmmm
    comprehensively rebutted. Yeah.

    to think Pete of the time of you invested doing all those cross-referenced links.

    On another note: I don’t see any other way that this will go where Robinson can save face. He keeps making this harder and harder for himself.

  • Pete Baker

    qubol

    Not much of a “cast iron guarantee” in the circumstances, even if that’s what Bertie now claims he secured.

    “The devolution of policing from May was part of the deal in my view..”

    That might well have been his view.

    The target date was aspirational after all.

  • qubol

    PeteB: “Bertie now claims”

    when did he claim otherwise?

  • DC

    “The target date was aspirational after all” but not inspirational as the DUP need to be inspired and make this agreement work – it would be observing the spirit of the overall agreement, which when signed was to provide ‘the confidence’.

    War’s over PM Brown and Blair et al know it, we know it – there is confidence only Jim Allister hasn’t the confidence and he only knows how not to make the arrangements work to satisfy his own need to score political points.

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris,

    I thought it was the most relevant line. As you know Pete has been all over this issue like a rash. Everywhere you look, whether it’s in the Commons Hansard for October/November 06 or in the SAA confirms that the deadline was not in that Agreement.

    I can understand why SF feels it’s been cheated, if there was this clear an understanding between the three men. But in the end, it’s not what’s ended up on paper and therefore from the time the legislation was enacted that particular timetable was never going to be enforceable in the way the other elements clearly were.

    It looks like they got ‘Trimbled’ as the DUP would put it. Which begs the question of why, given how the IRA strung Trimble along over decommissioning (effectively sealing his political doom in October 2003), they thought the DUP would behave any differently with them?

    And like Trimble, it’s going to be very difficult for them to win any ‘blame game’ on this.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Ha! From the horse’s mouth! That should fuck some boringly repetitive people up.
    *looks up*
    Or maybe not.

  • percy

    the DUP seem more interested in a process of humiliation ( see Dodds’ language ) than the realpolitik of the situation.
    The DUP are finding no-one is supporting their position.
    Neither the Britsh nor the Irish Gov’ts and not Hugh Orde.

  • Dewi

    “And like Trimble, it’s going to be very difficult for them to win any ‘blame game’ on this.”

    Mick – u r far better than that nonsense. This is important.

  • Chris Donnelly

    And like Trimble, it’s going to be very difficult for them to win any ‘blame game’ on this

    Mick
    In whose eyes? If it is the case that Brown and Ahern are backing up the Sinn Fein stance, then who exactly is going to blame Sinn Fein for the crisis, beyond those already aligned with the DUP and opposed to republicans.

    Crucially, unlike Trimble, republicans have no electoral threat to contend with and therefore would appear in a strong position to either hold out for p and j at this time, or secure other ‘holding’ concessions from the British to buy more time for that devolution to occur.

    Either way, republicans would appear to have more options open to them at this juncture than the DUP.

  • Pete Baker

    Brown hasn’t actually done that, Chris. And, unless he’s going to produce a previously unpublished memo, Ahern has nothing beyond “his view” to evidence on the matter – Reliable witness that he has been.

    qubol

    “when did he claim otherwise?”

    You appear to misunderstand my point.

    Which was, when did Ahern claim something beyond what was agreed in writing?

    It certainly wasn’t mentioned in February.

    Sure, as Mitchel McLaughlin has just informed us

    “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.”

    Or is that now no longer the case..

  • Dave

    I agree that Bertie “I won it on the horses” Ahern is providing cover to the Shinners to get them off the hook they put themselves on by lying to their own supporters about a timetable for devolution of P and J – a timetable that they were required by their Ard Fheis to secure before entering the Executive. Having failed to secure it, they simply claimed they had secured it (but didn’t bother their arses getting something that important in writing), and merrily entered the Executive contrary to the terms of their own mandate, hoping the governments would clean up the mess the Shinner left behind on their way to where the British government told them to go, i.e. to Stormont.

  • kensei

    Pete

    I believe you were accusing me of psychosis when I suggested SF might have had some private guarantees. I believe I left it so open that that said guarantees could have came form any quarter. Mmmmm. Vindication. Feels good.

    And before you start, I fully accept that they should have got it down in writing. But cock up is certainly more forgivable than actual malice.

  • percy

    peteb
    I’m afraid your getting a bit lost here, and I’d suggest that’s because you’re not reporting in your threads what people like Hugh Orde are saying, or Brown, or the NIO.

    They’ve moved on, as has McLaughlin, as you’ve just quoted.

    I’d further suggest your narrative is coming apart because what these officals are saying, is not fitting in with the way in which you want to tie this whole thing down.

    It does help to look up once in a while.

  • Pete Baker

    ken

    You seem to be implying that Sinn Féin accepted assurances from Bertie in the face of public statements to the contrary from the DUP?

    Enjoy that vindication.

    percy

    On what was agreed at St Andrews, I think you’ll find I’ve noted just about everyone’s statements.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    The continued dancing on the head of this now historical pin obvioulsy supples great interest to those who either dont grasp the real politics of the sitaution ie the political isolation of the DUP or are ideologically compelled to hide behind the sofa as the events unfold.

    The screeching sound of Pete’s arguement (SF are in a hole ) being stretched to try and cover the actual facts, amusingly, just gets seems to get louder.

  • Driftwood

    If Defence, Foreign Policy, taxation etc remains at Whitehall, why not Policing and Justice? Who gives a shit? We are de facto ruled by London anyway, and de jure. The wee pretendy executive at Stormont is a punch and judy show, move it to Tyrella beach. Why is everyone pretending that we are not governed by Westminster when we clearly are? And will be for the forseeable future thankfully.

  • percy

    “On what was agreed at St Andrews, I think you’ll find I’ve noted just about everyone’s statements.”

    Indeed you have peteb.

    Its just that paying attention to what they’re saying today
    is notable by its absence from your threads.

    Do you think there a conspiracy going on to help SF off the hook?

  • Ann

    Once SF threatened to take the ball away, and if they’d followed through on that threat then in the eyes of the public at least they would be to blame. They’d never have won that blame game.

  • kensei

    Pete

    You seem to be implying that Sinn Féin accepted assurances from Bertie in the face of public statements to the contrary from the DUP?

    Are you seriously saying you don’t believe politicians can say one thing in public and another in private? But I didn’t actually say that. I simply said they I be surprised if they didn’t have private assurances from some quarter that made them believe they had more than they had. I don’t think it is entirely beyond sense to believe the two governments could effectively compel compliance from the DUP.

    Enjoy that vindication.

    Mmmm-mmm-mmmmm. Feels good, Pete. It’s certainly neutered that particular line, hasn’t it? Mmmm-mmm.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Ann,

    not quite.

    SF threatened to abandon the match if the DUP refused to play ball. Given that both Refs (Engleze and ROI govts) think the DUP should get on and start playing – then I’m afraid to say – unfair as it might seem to some, Unionists would, as per usual, corectly, take the blame.

    Funny old game.

  • percy

    The process is a bit like trying to help someone with constipation (DUP) to make that final push, so the turd comes out, and is flushed away.

    Then we can all breathe again,
    with the collective release of:
    “ahh that’s better now isn’t it”

  • Pete Baker

    “I simply said they I be surprised if they didn’t have private assurances from some quarter that made them believe they had more than they had.”

    So, ken, you’re imagining evidence beyond the claims made by Bertie?

    Okay..

    “Are you seriously saying you don’t believe politicians can say one thing in public and another in private?”

    Oh, no. Not at all.

  • Steve

    Look at whose wriggling now lol

    code word: whether you can’t make this stuff up

  • Dave

    “The continued dancing on the head of this now historical pin obvioulsy supples great interest to those who either dont grasp the real politics of the sitaution ie the political isolation of the DUP or are ideologically compelled to hide behind the sofa as the events unfold.” – It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Superb irony from a Shinner supporter given that “the real politics of the situation” are that SF are following a British government led agenda rather than the British government following a SF led agenda. The other part of those “real politics” is that if the presentation of those roles is skilfully stage-managed so that they appear to the gullible to be reversed, then the sheep will merrily follow behind the shepherd, seeing nothing of who is beckoning said shepherd even when a clear silhouette appears on the horizon on moments such as these. No internal solution. No return to Stormont. No decommissioning. No support for “Her Majesy’s forces of occupation.” etc 😉

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris,

    “Crucially, unlike Trimble, republicans have no electoral threat to contend with and therefore would appear in a strong position to either hold out for p and j at this time, or secure other ‘holding’ concessions from the British to buy more time for that devolution to occur.”

    True enough, and the SDLP will continue to give limited covering fire. Yet neither is the DUP under any serious electoral pressure. In fact the longer this goes on and the tougher they are in any settlement, the lesser the threat from Allister and Co becomes.

    The real problem is the gap between what SF says it got at St Andrews and what it actually got. That they were promised something different during the process is analogous to Trimble’s letter from Blair. And that it misrepresented that ‘product’ to the Ard Fheis. You really don’t need to be a partisan observer to recognise that.

    The legal situation arising from our ‘indigenous deal’ is such that only the DUP can undo the triple lock. Positive IMC report cards notwithstanding, Brown cannot do it. And Ahern is out of the picture.

    In terms of the blame game, the DUP are playing it fairly cool and leaving it to SF to make the moves. We know that British ministers can and have got the power to intervene by wrapping the whole thing up. The Assembly and the Executive are only devolved institutions. Westminster could roll the carpets up at any time it likes. But you’d have to be very nieve not to see that Mr Brown does not have his troubles to seek. And partial interference would, as Peter Hain has said, be a ‘constitutional nonsense’.

    Of course it would do neutral readers of this issue to note John O’Dowd’s words on the last edition of Hearts and Minds: is that this is all about ‘playing the optics’. I’m almost willing to bet there will be a settlement on all of this at some point.

    Just when it will happen and what shape it will take I cannot say. Plan A was blown out of the water by the Alliance. Now the SDLP are pitching (too?) hard for a Plan B. Ultimately it will be subject to the successful conclusion of negotiations between the two lead parties in government.

    And, at some point, it will take another Ard Fheis before getting it ‘ratified’. Although I suspect SF’s ‘civil action’ can be suspended by the Ard Comhairle as soon as the deal is done.

    As for the rest of the speculation it is, as Mitchel McLaughlin put it, a proverbial red herring. Which is one reason why Pete’s posts on the subject are so dull and repetitive.

  • kensei

    Pete

    So, ken, you’re imagining evidence beyond the claims made by Bertie?

    Nope, Pete, just enjoying the fact the fact I won’t have to contend with you jumping up and down like a yappy dog telling me I am entirely imagining things the next time I suggest SF probably got some private assurance.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Dave,

    an arguable point in realation to overall settlement. It is now clear on the issue of the transfer ( as pointed out to you repeatedly) that it is DUP isolation that is the now main issue.

    “SF are following a British government led agenda rather than the British government following a SF led agenda”

    Exacly the same thing could have been said, and probably was by Trimble when he was being Lundified by the DUP for allowing SF to get its own way in earlier negotiations.

    DUP spin: Lets call anything that SF get whilst in Stormo with us as “following a British government led agenda”.

  • percy

    The Chief Constable’s View
    IMC’s verdict is as good as it gets: Orde
    I find Orde’s language refreshing

  • Briso

    Posted by Mick Fealty on Sep 05, 2008 @ 06:29 AM
    As for the rest of the speculation it is, as Mitchel McLaughlin put it, a proverbial red herring. Which is one reason why Pete’s posts on the subject are so dull and repetitive.

    Mick, does this mean you share my view that while Pete has always been right, he has missed the point? It seems like uncharacteristic mild rebuke from you for Pete, but perhaps I have missed your point!

  • Greenflag

    A contract is a contract is a contract – but get it in writing . An agreement is an agreement is an agreement but get it in writing . When trust is absent as it so obviously is in this mess of pottage of an Assembly -get it in writing .

    SF were DUPED . The DUP are not to be trusted as men of their word – only as men of their written word .

    SF might want to remember that in all future dealings .

    Now that the DUP have shown how clever they are at pulling the wool over everybody’s eyes including both Governments as well as the other parties -what will be their next trick in their 40 year long trek to not win friends and not influence others across these islands ?

    A battle a day or perpetual tribal politics is what the Assembly is all about . I’m surprised that a lot of posters on slugger have not come to grips with that

    SF need to exit the Assembly – NOW . If and when HMG ever bothers to restart .SF need to insist on not just exact dates for implementation of any critical agreements but get the exact time of day as well – to the minute ! The DUP cannot be trusted to keep their word -even in front of two governments

    SF also need to get some decent legal advisors whenever dealing with the DUP . There is a reason why Paisley despite everything he has said and done over a forty year career in the public eye has never been returned to ‘jail’ .

  • Peter Robinson: “This is a vindication of our strategy and undoubtedly this has been achieved as a result of our determination to rid Northern Ireland of the terrorist structures that have plagued us for so long.”

    I think Peter should be thanking the US envoys for their role rather than promoting the DUP as an agent of progress. Indeed, the DUP appears to have been remarkably unsuccessful in diminishing loyalist structures.

    Hugh Orde: “There is no intelligence and I have no intelligence that they (the army council) are meeting and the world moves on.”

    I must say I take Hugh’s words with a pinch of salt. The ‘legitimate government of Ireland’ manages the political, military, intelligence, organised crime and other wings of the PRM so I suspect it still has plenty of work to do.

    And it’s a funny old world where police officers collaborate with certain ‘community representatives’ aka paramilitaries on community projects. I wonder if all of these reps have been vetted for their suitability in working with children and young people …

  • “SF were DUPED”

    Greenflag, why are you using my language, the language of DUPlicity? 😉

    Do you like the idea of Bertie being DUPed?

  • It appears that the litany of posts on the subject from Pete amounts to nothing more than a ball of smoke to which, incidentally, provide cover for the reneging DUP.

    The DUP renege on the devolution of policing, the British Government renege on the introduction of an Irish Language ACT – can they not make an agreement to which they can live up.

  • dunreavynomore

    All these highly experienced politicos from Britain and Ireland and somehow they just neglected to get crucial points written down?? Are we supposed to believe this? Is this Bertie Ahern the same one who didn’t have a bank account for years, who forgets about gifts/loans of thousands of pounds, who is not sure whether he bought a house or not? Are we supposed to believe him? Sinn Fein, not for the first time, fed the grass roots lies which are now nipping at their heels. At best they were naive, at worst cynical liars, take your pick.

  • Greenflag

    Concubhar O Liathain

    ‘can they not make an agreement to which they can live up.’

    Short answer -No
    Long answer -Yes sometimes when it suits .

    Treaty of Limerick anyone ?

  • Greenflag

    Nevin ,

    ‘Do you like the idea of Bertie being DUPed? ‘

    It’s hilarious . Duping Bertie is a notable achievement no doubt – Duping both governments even more so – but duping the people of Northern Ireland for decades is just a reminder that you can fool some of the people all of the time and the suckers will always come back for more 🙁
    It’s eh – the human condition .

  • Greenflag, the good burghers of Dublin hardly need reminding about the dodgy burgers in Leinster House …

  • Greenflag

    Nevin ,

    ‘dodgy burgers in Leinster House ‘

    The good burghers of Dublin and other parts of ROI have an advantage over their Belfast and Ballymena counterparts . When our burgers become too dodgy we change them for less dodgy burgers until they in turn get bitten by the flea.

    Meanwhile in Belfast you get the same burgers dodgy or not in aeternum, courtesy of Monsieur D’Hondt and the compulsory power sharing Assembly.

    So it’s a case of SF on your DUP burger or vice versa . One is reminded of Dean Swifts ‘ode to the parasite flea ‘(slightly modified 😉

    So pundits observe, our DUPer flea
    Hath an SF flea that on him biteth ;
    And each have yet still smaller fleas to bite ’em
    And will each so proceed ad infinitum .

  • “we change them for less dodgy burgers”

    No. Really 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Greenflag

    ‘No. Really 🙂 🙂 🙂 ‘

    Yes weally 🙂

    We know the difference between a politician and a roll of toilet paper . You can at least wipe your arse with the paper 🙁

    They are the excrement which holds society together and without which we would have to leave the ordering and governance of the state to the mob with the most guns and those prepared to use this . This is nothing new . It’s been going on since the pre Cambrian when the first multicelled organism learned how to become bigger by devouring some other organism smaller than itself .