“We will take our decision based on content not the calendar..”

For all the wishful headlines, and accompanying hopeful quotes at the British Irish Council meeting, neither the Northern Ireland First nor deputy First Ministers mentioned the actual deadlock. From the First Minister,

“I hope we will have two meetings next week, it’s important that we do,” Mr Robinson said. “I think it will be very hard to explain to people in Northern Ireland that Northern Ireland politicians can sit around a table in Edinburgh but they couldn’t sit around one in Belfast. “So let’s move ahead with all of the institutions, get everything in place and get down to work.”

And the deputy First Minister,

Mr McGuinness spoke to reporters separately but insisted he had a good relationship with Mr Robinson and shared common goals. Asked if a north-south meeting would go ahead next Friday, he said: “I don’t see any reason why it can’t go ahead. “Given that today’s event went ahead, we can reasonably expect that the North-South Ministerial Council will take place next week.” And he said it was an “absolute priority” for an Executive meeting to be held on Thursday next week.

Mark Devenport is right to be sceptical.. And here’s another reminder of the reason behind the recent escalation.. And an update for the BBC to note.

The First Minister said he would not be pushed or bullied into moving on policing and added that such powers would not be placed in the hands of a Sinn Féin minister.

“What we need to do now is not to blockade the Executive but to use the agreed processes and seek to reach agreement and build confidence in the community for this to take place. “There is one certainty – Sinn Féin’s harmful obstruction of Executive business is eroding confidence not only in devolving new powers but in the devolution we have already achieved.”

Adds According to the BBC update

A Sinn Fein spokesman said the DUP leader needed “to make it clear whether he supports the St Andrews Agreement, because that was the basis on which the institutions were resurrected”.

[Have they read the St Andrews Agreement? – Ed]. We know why Sinn Féin are keen to get those powers devolved.The iol report continues

Mr Robinson was addressing supporters in Fermanagh, where the party won a by-election victory over Sinn Fein earlier this month.

On policing, he said devolution was a unionist ideal.

“Our terms are unalterable. We will take our decision based on content not the calendar.

“We want devolution to take place, and it will – but only when the essential conditions have been met.

“The other key condition for us is attaining support and confidence from the community in the structures and in those who will operate them.”

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  • DC

    Arguably, the British-Irish governments could wait until further deadlock to provoke thought towards sovereign collapse of the current administration and the institutions. This time round it might be a useful window of closure, let’s face people want this to work because the confidence is there on the streets.

    A return of such powers back in the hands of Westminster, or Westminister to SF members, could remove it from being that ‘constitutional nonsense’ and a repackage could be made while in the appropriate constitutional hands. The British could write in via legislation policing powers as part of a new package that could be put to the people of Northern Ireland via new elections. Thus new elections would have to have parties signing up to operate in full, those that don’t would hardly be elected again as why would anyone re-elect failures.

    It would impact on SF and DUP if the UUP and SDLP and Alliance form a positive pact cautiously optimistic that voters would vote in what works – but a changed agenda would need to occur from the centre parties and delivered up front. SF would probably be not that affected but nonetheless, it would be abrasive re the DUP’s views on things, but the confidence argument would be done away with given new elections would be to work the system.

    People want to go forwards not back, the UUP should have already positioned themselves in favour of devolving these powers, Alliance too, after all it just the continuation of the GFA. A deal that they came out in favour off – it’s really the last piece of peace.

    High risk strategy, but could change the electoral texture if positioning was only better from the UUP-SDLP-ALLIANCE.

  • Pete Baker

    DC

    I don’t necessarily disagree on the potential benefits of parties seeking new positions – despite the problems identified by Eamonn McCann et al.

    But, “The British could write in via legislation policing powers as part of a new package that could be put to the people of Northern Ireland via new elections.”?

    No. No. No. They – the DUP, SF, and the UK and Irish governments – tried that with the elections following St Andrews.

    That didn’t endorse those arrangements any more than another election would.

    If they’re going to change the system to that extent, they need a referendum to do so.

  • DC

    I disagree because they are after all the sovereign powers, the reason why the government couldn’t do it then was because the DUP couldn’t then sell it as they had to enter into power with the enemy.

    However, having gone forward into that situation the ground they stood on has been removed, they can’t go back convincingly. The key would be whether the other 3 parties, UUP in particular could catch themselves on and move into a position to sell to their own electorate.

    The deadlock, as Mr Robinson is figuring out is placing a strain on devolution. A strain on the concept of devolution itself must ring warning bells in Westminster as if that happens what’s the alternative.

    The problem has been the stupid centre parties getting selfish over being left out at St Andrews that was linked to the GFA which they worked hard to deliver.

    But, this could be a chance to close ranks and pop out the DUP, while swerving against SF for intransigence too yet working a deal with the sovereign British to deliver policing in order to match public opinion on the street to keep the concept of devolution alive.

    Referendum maybe, elections would work if the parties signed up to it, the weak link is the UUP, given its baffling move to withdraw support. So referendum might instigate it – although Pete, a referendum would run on regional majority approval whereas Assembly elections would be crippled by that stupid community unionist / nationalist vetoe, thus the DUP could scupper workability.

    The stark alternative if the DUP did resort to macho-scuppering once again is arguably a complete failure of Northern Ireland. Importantly, in contrast though Paisley is gone and people want peace, reconciliation and progress. A reconciliation conference of sorts could be used when in cost-free storage as a means to assure the public of good intentions and then roll out of a better devolutionary package?

  • Pete Baker

    DC

    You’re ascribing motivations all over the place in the absence of any evidence to back it up.

    The ‘constitutional nonsense’ is the imposition of further powers against the wishes of the Assembly.

    Changing that position, given the current designation system, requires either the re-positioning of the UUP – and a subsequent majority for them against the DUP in an election – or a referendum. And, probably, a similar process with the SDLP. Alliance could help in either/both of those processes, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a vote-winner for them.

    And that all ignores the problems identified previously.

    But,

    “The problem has been the stupid centre parties getting selfish over being left out at St Andrews that was linked to the GFA which they worked hard to deliver.”

    Ah, I see. That’s your problem. You mis-diagnose the current deadlock. Haven’t you been paying attention?

    There is no pressing need or desire for any further devolution right now beyond that promised by Sinn Féin to their activists and supporters.

    You know, the deadline they claimed to have secured at St Andrews?

  • DC

    “The ‘constitutional nonsense’ is the imposition of further powers against the wishes of the Assembly”

    Yes but if it collapses due to its own incompetence then what Assembly?

    It’s clear there has been political peace processing but the parties need to be sat down in one room and they need to get it together in terms of this abrasive negativity that is probably a result of little reconciliation and mistrust, now demands are being ratcheted up, except like all good authoritarian parties vociferous disagreement is kept sealed. The more democratic parties can’t but help let it spill out it is that democratic nature and transparency that shows it up more clearly think SDLP-UUP fall outs.

    The problems have been transparency, this might be an ideal time to resolve some of these differences in a unique conference, now that the politics of agreement has been sealed.

    “You mis-diagnose the current deadlock”

    The current deadlock is largely party-political linked to DUP being unaligned to the peace process Pete, conjuring up confidence at that end will always be difficult given the last 40 years of bitter politics by bitter men. For example, the DUP doesn’t have confidence in the PSNI, given it railed against it for years and still does as a discriminatory service. Wholly inappropriate in my view especially when in power.

    I think it is time to stop paying the MLAs in the Assembly and get down to the business of reconciliation, which appears to have been overlooked by the DUP and SF with its heady and in some instances overbearing and unrealistic demands. As it is this lack of reconciliation which is in the way of productive domestic policy, arguably it’s time for a sit down and levelling, but done transparently.

    The MLAs are cowards, they lecture the rest of not to be sectarian and they can’t or will not let the people of NI see them sit down in one room, with a viewing audience, and hear them discuss their very own or imagined real problems. They’re a disgrace and hypocrites.

    It would seem political parties are lagging behind the natural characteristics of compassion and progress that is out there amongst civil society, the wider public sphere and voluntary and community sectors. At least together it is something that they all strive for.

    Notice the DUP has blocked the reconvening of the civil forum at the Assembly, probably because those members would be telling laggards to get on with it and show a bit of respect – mutual respect and that would apply to SF as well.

  • Pete Baker

    “Yes but if it collapses due to its own incompetence then what Assembly?”

    Then the mechanism exists to re-run the election.

    You wish to interrupt that legislative process.

    “The current deadlock is largely party-political linked to DUP being unaligned to the peace process Pete..”

    They joined what process there was at the last elections.

    Sinn Féin’s blocking of the current process, still not fully played out, is an attempt to short-curcuit that process – and what they signed up to at St Andrews.

    “The problems have been transparency, this might be an ideal time to resolve some of these differences in a unique conference, now that the politics of agreement has been sealed.”

    Oh, so “transparency” has been the problem?

    But wait!

    “As it is this lack of reconciliation which is in the way of productive domestic policy, arguably it’s time for a sit down and levelling, but done transparently.”

    Maybe not, then?

    And who elects those MLAs?

    Cheers. Thanks for that contribution.

    Next!

  • Steve

    There is no pressing need or desire for any further devolution right now beyond that promised by Sinn Féin to their activists and supporters.

    You know, the deadline they claimed to have secured at St Andrews?

    Posted by Pete Baker on Sep 26, 2008 @ 10:37 PM

    You are wrong pete there is a pressing need even if it just SF pressing, it it is pressing

    Funny thing is the supposed DUP puppet has become the master of the DUP by simply refusing to come out and play except on its own terms

  • Pete Baker

    “You are wrong pete there is a pressing need even if it just SF pressing, it it is pressing”

    You’re right, Steve, Sinn Féin are the one’s pressing that need – to fulfil their own promises.

    Promises not matched by what was actually agreed at St. Andrews.

  • DC

    “problem”

    No Pete, problems are with transparency: justice, language and policing. When I hear the words ‘confidence problems’ being used whenever the other ministers competence hasn’t been challenged in other devolved portfolios, I begin to think that it is empty vessels that make most sound. I am saying it is an empty argument.

    But when you have the British and Irish Governments saying that St Andrews was supposed to deliver that confidence by May 2008 and now asking for that date to be set then it is time to do so.

    Oh and also we have the PSNI popping up saying get a move on too because the vacuum is causing an opportunity for more blood to be spilt from the police by those that need half an excuse to offload their own distorted grievances. The public sphere is the environment in which political demands are usually set, re-set or indeed implemented and the public sphere is speaking out against party politics, especially those parties that have had a poorly written narrative of a fair deal. Ya know Pete ‘justice is the glue’ and all that…

    So, you would think the BBC or other media outlets would get Mssrs Adams, McGuinness, Robinson and Dodds on TV for an hour or so, so that Sinn Fein can prove at a human level the efforts taken for peace, in relation to the conflict from the impact of partition in terms of political and civil administration grievances, and in response the DUP could perhaps explain why there isn’t that confidence yet. Or, is it up for the plebs to be lectured about sectarianism via policy documents alone and OK for leaders to fall out over it and not meet?

    It is a representative democracy Pete, so people elect MLAs to get on with the job, Sinn Fein has a job to do and so too DUP. Of course SF are mandated to back the police only when justice powers are delivered. This means anyway that the deal unravels and therefore the DUP knowing all of this should be viewed as incompetent because of a lack of partnership and leadership required to stop this from happening. A quid-pro-quo.

    My reading of it is that by now the collapse should have happened. Therefore time to re-negotiate or close the book to a promising experiment of reconciliation and domestic policy setting that failed. Joint-rule might actually provide better bi-national reconciliation than distorted local politics. Too local perhaps for good leadership given the manner in which ethno-political games have been used as a substitute for responsible politics so as to get into power.

  • Pete Baker

    DC

    “Of course SF are mandated to back the police only when justice powers are delivered.”

    No. That’s so wrong I don’t know where to begin.

    Time to re-read those agreements, DC.

  • DC

    “That this Ard Fheis endorses the Ard Chomhairle motion. That the Ard Chomhairle is mandated to implement this motion only when the power-sharing institutions are established and when the Ard Chomhairle is satisfied that the policing and justice powers will be transferred. Or if this does not happen within the St Andrews timeframe, only when acceptable new partnership arrangements to implement the Good Friday Agreement are in place.”

    SF took the May 2008 date as that ‘timeframe’ and it is now time for other arrangements to be made to implement the original appropriate demand of devolving policing powers as per the GFA.

    The St Andrews timeframe was given as workable and it is time for explanations. There hasn’t been any appropriate explanations given so that’s were we are today.

    I have outlined reasons to move on it in as much as I can say that historic documents at times are just that, as whenever demands for change come from police authorities, which provide the glue in society, I would say, democratically speaking that it would be very judicious to enact moves deemed appropriate to keep that ‘glue’ cohesive.

    It’s as well you’re not about on Washington DC Pete as you’d be the last person anyone could ever want near the place in these times!

  • the future’s bright the future’s orange

    I have outlined reasons to move on it in as much as I can say that historic documents at times are just that, as whenever demands for change come from police authorities, which provide the glue in society, I would say, democratically speaking that it would be very judicious to enact moves deemed appropriate to keep that ‘glue’ cohesive. ”

    hmm, yes, when SF make a threat, do as they say or else they’ll walk out. It’s a bit like giving a kid a sweet every time they cry. You’ll find that the kid learns to cry a lot…

    What next, we walk out if u don’t introduce the Irish language act, Maze etc etc etc. Realistically, SF can’t walk out. P&J;is way down most people’s priorities. Te economy has gone to pot, bills are spiralling through the roof. What would a SF withdrawl say to potential investors??

  • Comrade Stalin

    Steve,

    I agree with Pete. I might sympathise with the idea that there was a “pressing need” for local parties to have powers over policing and justice, if our local parties actually had a serious and radical plan to improve the way it is run. Given that the Programme for Government – a pathetically conservative document, which despite it’s lack of ambition the parties still can’t implement – lacks any kind of original thinking beyond re-implementing existing British policy, what leads anyone to believe that life is going to be any different for the justice ministry ?

    In the background Sinn Fein are, at the moment, refusing to even take part in discussions about how to unblock the present impasse. They won’t meet Alliance and, as far as I can tell, they won’t meet the DUP to discuss things. These are not the actions of a party attempting to achieve it’s goals in a constructive way. Instead, we are seeing the behaviour of a bad-tempered, petulant child after he has been told that he can’t have icecream until he has finished his dinner.

    FWIW I want to see the devolution of these powers as soon as possible. But I don’t see the point in the absence of a functioning government, and I certainly don’t see the point if the parties lack the ambition to do anything other than implement existing Whitehall policies.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Whatever the letter of the STA the Engleze government have made it clear as to what the DUP should do NOW. The DUP have decided to not to do that for a variety of reasons. If they stick to their dilatory position they will inevitable be punished politically. That is the REAL politics of the situation.

    Has anybody seen a CLEAR statement form any/all of the following on the Police and Justice issue.
    Wee Reggie and the Ulster Unionists.
    Posh Dave and the Neo Conservatives.
    Wee Davy and the Alliance Party.

  • Steve

    CS

    Petulant maybe? But why meet the DUP they have no intention of moving on P&J;they only want to bluster and cajole SF into going back

    Right now I am guessing petulance is paying off big time with their base especially with the stoops putting their foot in their mouth over majority rule.

  • DC

    “hmm, yes, when SF make a threat, do as they say or else they’ll walk out. It’s a bit like giving a kid a sweet every time they cry. You’ll find that the kid learns to cry a lot…”

    To that all I would say is that you fail to recognise the rise of SF, its electorate, the peace process, the IRA winding up and impact of partition and the very nature of the conflict.

    It is classic Unionist denial of the need to realise why these very powers have now been requested as urgent. Think SF backing the police and wider republican/nationalist narrative that stands up with SF in requesting justice powers to be shared now in return for conditioning of its base?

    Have SF gone about it in a way that is detrimental to confidence, yes, but so too the other parties for the blatant disregard of a wider regional understanding of NI. Once again regional mismanagement comes into play because of party political stances.

    The SDLP shot its bolt to soon on this one, I think it was done mainly because they were left out in Scotland and they got selfish and turned on SF because it led-up these demands and stole, if you like, some of its electorate. Anyway.

    The key ingredient is reconciliation now that roughly speaking all parties have agreed to deal. Perhaps it’s time for stopping pay and holding a conference to discuss this particular issue.

  • frustrated democrat

    It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    from Conservative NI website bt Tory Writer……..

    ‘Above all else though, our major concern is that the devolved administration in Northern Ireland is in no position to take on policing and justice at this moment. The present institutions are still bedding down and, as recent months have shown, the Executive isn’t even fully functioning. All this is compounded by the continuing education impasse and seemingly unsolvable issues like the Maze stadium and water charges.

    Until the DUP/SF axis can prove to the people of Northern Ireland that it is competent at dealing with the problems resulting from its current remit of powers then the prospect of adding such a contentious portfolio to Executive control is complete madness and threatens the form of stability which currently exists’.

    I’m not sure if that is official policy but it is a very fair indication of what they (and many others) are thinking.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]hmm, yes, when SF make a threat, do as they say or else they’ll walk out. It’s a bit like giving a kid a sweet every time they cry. You’ll find that the kid learns to cry a lot… 2[/i]

    Exactly, and once you fall into the trap of appeasing the child, you’ll be forever appeasing as it slowly becomes the normal way of getting along.

    It needs to be nipped in the bud. The DUP, UUP, Alliance and SDLP all have to grow some balls and stop this appeasing trend once and for all. All parties who wish to further the childish politics should be strongly humiliated and exposed to the full force of the public through new elections.

  • DC

    Ulsters my homeland this is no time for a novice.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    frustrated democrat

    thanks for that. Key fudge phrase “at this moment”.

    Interesting if it is offical policy. Posh boy Dave is trying to show the eo-cons as a changed party and will move cautiously methinks.

  • Steve

    UMH

    I am only guessing here but I think right now only SF would welcome an election.

    Stoops stabbed themselves in the back, the alliance is not really a credible alternative to nationalists

    And the onionists are ready to shatter into a million little people unless dupers can bluff tuvers into folding their cards

  • Ulsters my homeland

    DC

    “[i]Ulsters my homeland this is no time for a novice. “[/i]

    and what’s your idea to stop the constant appeasement of IRA/Sinn Fein demands?

    “[i]The key ingredient is reconciliation now that roughly speaking all parties have agreed to deal. Perhaps it’s time for stopping pay and holding a conference to discuss this particular issue. “[/i]

    so what’s your roll in the Irish government?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Sammy etc:

    Whatever the letter of the STA the Engleze government have made it clear as to what the DUP should do NOW.

    Who cares ? Is this thing supposed to be about self government by local people, or not ?

    Petulant maybe? But why meet the DUP they have no intention of moving on P&J;they only want to bluster and cajole SF into going back

    So without even meeting the DUP, you have decided what their motives are ? Why even bother with the pretence that collective enforced coalition is worthwhile or workable ?

    Right now I am guessing petulance is paying off big time with their base especially with the stoops putting their foot in their mouth over majority rule.

    I hope the SF base is happy with no government, and no prospect of government, and the possibility of the reintroduction of colonial-style rule from London. Another big victory against the DUP ?

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Comrade Stalin,

    Who cares what the Englezes think?

    Well if Stormo does the collapse thing SF will be justifiably abe to say the DUP would not do as they were required to do. So even if you personally dont care – be assured the DUP certainly do.

    Re. “colonial-style rule from London” – if Stormo collapses because of DUP intransigence on Police and Justice that will probably mean more ROI involvement to encourage Unionists in the next attempt at putting Humpty-Dumty-Stormo together again. Most Nationalists wil be happy enough about that – Unionists say ‘NO’ again and the the Englezes say not good enough must try again.