“Our position is crystal clear..”

The problem for the deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, in trying to come up with an explanation of the context in which he signed the letter to the Assembly and Executive Review Committee, on the mechanism for chosing any devolved Justice Minister, is that it doesn’t change the detail of what he actually signed up to..Here’s Martin McGuinness explanation..

Mr McGuinness said claims by the DUP that the arrangement would be permanent was: “Absolutely wrong. Totally untrue.”

Mr McGuinness said: “I listened with amusement to what Peter (Robinson) said yesterday.

“Our position is crystal clear. The DUP are under no illusions whatsoever about where Sinn Féin is coming from on this issue.

“Our position is crystal clear and we have made it crystal clear during the course of these discussions that we are involved in.

“Now those discussions will continue and from our perspective it will continue for the purposes of achieving a successful outcome.”

The Deputy First Minister added: “The reality is that the particular context within which that phrase was used was explained in very categoric terms to Peter Robinson and to his entire negotiating team.

“They are under no illusions whatsoever about where Sinn Fein is coming from.”

And what he actually signed up to again.

“We believe that your consideration should be based on a single department in which policing and justice powers would reside with a single Minister elected at all times from the Assembly in a way which would ensure cross-community support.”

And a reminder of the argument at the Review Committee

This sentence led to all the talk about Alliance taking the justice job. Since then, the SDLP have been hammering away at the line that this boils down to “no nationalist need apply”. Today Alex Attwood scored a hit when he raised the matter in the committee,and Sinn Fein’s Alec Maskey responded by saying that “at all times” did not mean the cross community vote should be permanent. Later Raymond McCartney argued that the sentence meant a future Justice Minister should “at all times” be elected “from the Assembly”, rather than “at all times” by “cross community support”.

We are in “eats, shoots and leaves” territory here. But the significance is that if the July agreement on a future Justice ministry falls apart, we are back to minus square one.

Indeed.

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  • Ian

    Pete,

    That’s a selective quotation from the letter from FM/DFM to the Executive Review Committee.

    For all we know the sentence “We believe that your consideration should be based on…” could have been preceded by “We would like the Executive Review Committee to consider how the Justice Ministry should initially be set up.”

    The reference to the Minister being elected “at all times from the Assembly” rebuts Hain’s suggestion last year that a non-MLA could be appointed to the post.

  • Ian

    In the above, replace ‘rebuts’ with ‘could simply be a rebuttal of’

  • Ian

    The quote below from the IOL story, selectively non-quoted above, confirms this:

    “A Sinn Féin spokesman, however, said the letter merely noted that any justice minister would be elected “at all times from the Assembly” to rule out suggestions that a high profile public figure from outside the ranks of the 108 Assembly members would be brought in to fill the ministry.”

  • Pete Baker

    Which would be speculation on your part, Ian.

    Don’t you think that if that had been the case, someone from Sinn Féin would have pointed that out?

    Rather than what they have done, which is to argue about the meaning of the quoted section? And I see you’re not quoting the line in its entirety.

  • Ian

    Pete, until I see the letter in its entirety I’m entitled to speculate on what it says in full.

    And I’ve just posted a quote from Sinn Fein explaining what their position is (crossed with your post).

  • Pete Baker

    “And I’ve just posted a quote from Sinn Fein explaining what their position is”

    No, you’ve just quoted them arguing about the meaning of the quoted section.

    And, like yourself, they’re not quoting the line in its entirety.

    Now why would that be?

  • Ian

    If you’re referring to the phrase “in a way which would ensure cross-community support”, as discussed on the other thread that refers to the mechanism for appointing, not the person appointed.

    Again, I reiterate that the full meaning of the sentence can only be speculated upon by you, I or anyone else without access to the letter in its entirety.

    Do you know of a link to the letter in full? If so, could you share it with us?

  • Dec

    Peter might be on to something if the section actually read:

    “We believe that your consideration should be based on a single department in which policing and justice powers would reside with a single Minister elected from the Assembly in a way which would ensure cross-community support at all times .”

    Since it doesn’t, this can be easily dismissed as the usual anti-republican diatribe this site appears to specialise in now.

  • Ian

    At the end of the day the two parties can bicker about semantics, or they can hammer out a deal.

    But it’s best to sort it out now though, rather than end up in a scenario where Alliance get the Justice ministry and devolution goes ahead, but after the next Assembly election it all falls apart AGAIN over this issue of the long-term nomination to the Justice post.

  • Ian

    …long-term mechanism for nomination to the Justice post.

  • Carson’s Cat

    Dec,
    “Since it doesn’t, this can be easily dismissed as the usual anti-republican diatribe this site appears to specialise in now.”

    That combination of dancing on the head of a pin and spouting republican paranoia must be some act to pull off!

    The letter is as clear as day and the Shinner wrigging really is quite embarassing to watch. McGuinness signed up to something during the summer which for some reason shinnerdom is now trying to row back from. Whether he didn’t realise what he agreed to, whether he did realise but now wants to backtrack, or whether he did realise what he signed up to but Gerry’s come along and laid down the law, is entirely up to us all to speculate…

  • Carson’s Cat

    Ian
    “At the end of the day the two parties can bicker about semantics, or they can hammer out a deal.”

    But some parts had been agreed, and I stress HAD, becuase it would seem that SF can’t decide what they did agree. Given that they’re apparently so keen to see the devolution of this issue, why they’re unpicking what they previously signed up to is all the harder to explain.

    I come back to what I said above – perhaps Gerry returned back from his holiday home in Donegal at the end of the summer and decided that Marty was getting too big for his boots and needed brought back into line…

  • Dave

    Is there a doctor grammarian in the house?

    The sentence puts the requirement for cross-community support on the mechanism of appointment rather than on the appointed person by using the modifier “in a way”. It’s possible for the mechanism by which the minister is appointed to have cross-community support and also possible for the person who is elected by that mechanism not to have cross-community support.

    According to the SDLP, the sentence means that “no nationalist need apply.” If the Shinners wanted to counter the SDLP’s objection that the sentence is prohibits a nationalist, then that is the ‘out’ that they should have used. They should have argued that the sentence meant that as long as the appointment process is fair and transparent (if that is the criteria for cross-community support rather than a sectarian numbers game played with loaded dice), then the designation of the appointed person shouldn’t matter.

    The fact that they didn’t do that presumably that the sentence wasn’t intended to have that meaning via the modifier, so the SDLP is probably correct to argue that the Uncle Toms Shinners have agreed with the DUP that no nationalist should hold that portfolio.

  • Ian

    “But some parts had been agreed, and I stress HAD, becuase it would seem that SF can’t decide what they did agree.”

    Well there was a statement from Gelly Kelly shortly after the deal was announced where he stated that the DUP and SF exempting themselves was only a temporary thing. So this isn’t a sudden and recent volte face by SF.

  • USA

    Carson’s cat,
    Don’t get too pleased with yourself. The DUP have been foot dragging for sometime. They can make a deal with Sinn Fein or SF walk and make a deal elsewhere. Either way SF will gain more than Unionism is comfortable with. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Ulster Unionism to the world of democratic politics.

  • Dec

    That combination of dancing on the head of a pin and spouting republican paranoia must be some act to pull off!

    And you can add to that heady combination “still laughing my balls off” from your recent assertion that DUP refusal to devolve P&J;was due to financial concerns.

  • ??

    They can make a deal with Sinn Fein or SF walk and make a deal elsewhere. ……….

    Then i wish they would. If Sinn Fein walk then policing and justice remains exactly where it is at the moment, and a lot of unionists would be happy with that situation, the Brits still in control and shinners out of stormont

  • the futrures bright, the future’s orange

    USA

    Times have changed. The arms are gone, so SF leverage is gone. They represent a threat electorally in the south so why would the southern governement offer them anything. More importantly, Unionists are in a strong position at westminister.
    Consequently, SF can jump up and down all they want. They signed up to a democratic process. Just because they don;t get everything they ask for – they intend to walk out??? Very democratic!!!
    What next?
    Give us ILA or we walk out?
    Give us a Maze stadium or we walk out?
    Paint all the mail boxes green or we walk out?

  • The arms are gone, so SF leverage is gone.”

    The size of its electoral mandate would give SF all the leverage it needs in a normal democratic society, it is just that in the DUP they are not negotiating with democratic politicians. What the DUP is demanding and the British government is mindful to agree to, is a hierarchy of ministers. Some party’s can be trusted in some ministries, others in all of the ministries. That is not a democracy, it is an undemocratic farce.

    Have SF accepted the right of the northern statelet to exist -yes
    Have they an electoral mandate which gives them the pick of a certain number of ministries- yes.

    God knows why, but SF have done all that has been asked of them by the Brits and the Unionists, yet apart from all of us being older, we are hardly any further forward.

    If I were a unionists I would begin to wonder why the DUP are willing to trust the shinners having control of the ministry that educates their children, but not the ministry that gives out parking fines and deals with shop lifting etc.

  • the future’s bright the future’s orange

    Fair point Mick – but I think P&J;is more symbolic than anything. To give the ministery to the very people who bombed the crap out of NI for decades is hard to take for many unionists. And in fairness nationalists have their own concerns over P&J;.
    I see no problem with the position requiring cross-community support – perhaps one day, unionists will vote for SF to take the post…

  • runciter

    I see no problem with the position requiring cross-community support

    Since the most likely alternative was a nationalist minister, I’m sure this seems like a ‘fair solution’ to an orangeman.

  • The future bright and orange

    I can understand that to, [bombing the shit etc} however what the DUP and most unionists are failing to understand is just how deep the hatred of the police and the memory of the B specials is within working class and some middle class nationalist communities. As you know from the unionist community, people can have long memories and the DUP is acting as if it is only SF that has committed ‘sins’.

    What the DUP are doing here is reinforcing peoples old prejudices and the memory of the north as a sectarian state. When I read some comments on devolved policing by the DUP I despair. Get it done and move on, .

    The funny thing is it is not crime that is the major problem in the north, but trust in the police and oversight of the police. Once a minister is in place people will move beyond that and hopefully the politicos will get down to solving some of the major problems people face in the north.

    best regards