“I’ve told you there’s a basis for government..”

In today’s Guardian Ian Jack interviews Ian Paisley Snr who provides some timely advice..

“Well, my reading of the matter is that in the political world you should have the ability to work together with people who have other views. I have worked with the Sinn Féiners and I was accused by many people on my side of being a traitor and all that, but that doesn’t worry me at all. I was always of the opinion that we could find a solution to our problems here by people realising that they couldn’t have all that they wanted.”

Indeed. Or, even, indeed.

Also from the Guardian interview

Paisley stood against O’Neill, the mild reformer, in a Stormont election and eventually did for him. I wondered if he found it ironic that, 40 years later, he had found himself heading a government that in its radical composition, its need to satisfy Republican demands, went well beyond anything O’Neill could have dreamed of.

“Well, that is true, but then again, I mean, I didn’t need to surrender any of my principles to do that. We had put on us by the British government a form of government that is not democratic [direct rule]. Do you continue in a state of having no say in your own country or are you prepared – not to sell your principles but to share power with people who accept the basis of democracy? I stood out – that I could not sit in a government until that government, all of them, accepted the rule of law and accepted the citizen’s responsibility to give information about terrorist activity to the police.”

Nobody in London thought Sinn Féin would buy that. Paisley said that one day Tony Blair had called him seven or eight times to tell him he had to give in. “I said, ‘Look, please don’t ring me again, I don’t want to talk about this any more. I’ve told you there’s a basis for government – everybody must be obedient to the law.’ And eventually of course he gave in.”

He was chuckling again. “Of course, he’s a supreme actor.” (And also, it might be added, a superb soft soaper; under his watch, Paisley became a Privy Councillor and his wife was installed in the House of Lords.) He has a kind word for several politicians. John Hume and Gordon Brown are both decent men, though Brown has been too mean with Northern Irish subsidy.

Of course, it’s never been just about those “dreary steeples”..

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  • William

    What old Papa Doc Paisley forget to tell Ian Jack was, that his mantra is, ‘It’s ok for me to do a deal, when I became boss, it was wrong for others’. Neither did he tell him that, unlike everyone from O’Neill to Trimble, he, Paisley didn’t have a guldering old fool roaring traitor, Lundy, Judas etc at him, the way he roared at shouted at his predecessors.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    The Big Fellah is being a little disingenious talking about him having “worked with Sinn Feiners” having left the really difficult issue – police – for Robbo to deal with.

    This impasse is not really about SF/DUP difficulties but the non implentation of the STA (Englze governements words) which has Nationalist Ireland and the governements wanting police and justice dealt with now and ALL Unionist parties (including Alliance) not wanting it dealt with now.

  • Mick Fealty

    Keep reframing it Sammy, one day it will catch on. 😉

    There’s an insight here to the dynamic between ‘Englzes’ and the DUP. Did you notice?

  • USA

    Peter Baker,
    Your links always go to something denouncing SF, invariable a post your started yourself. Today your post is about sharing government and not everyone getting what they want (Rolling Stones). But you put up two links which again portray an anti-SF / unionist interpretation of the situation. You constantly try to frame the conversation within your own narrow agenda. It’s pathetic and partisan and many folks are sick of how you post. You are like a blog version of a Noel Thompson interview – just confrontational and eventually of less and less value.
    Mick,
    Peter Baker may not be able to see it through his orange tinted glasses but P+J is central to the deal, surely you see that. Even the governments both agree.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Mick,

    “Keep reframing it Sammy”

    No promises – but I’ll do my best as long as Pete keeps spinning away – call me old fashioned but its probably best that theres a bit of balance thrown in.

    As a matter of interest do you support the current Unionist veto on progress – or is that just too ‘stupid’ a qusetion for you to answer?

  • Comrade Stalin

    USA,

    There really is no point in bitching about Pete’s perspective if you’re not going to try to actually counter his argument. I completely disagree with your idea that everyone who contributes to the blog is supposed to be non-partisan; instead what we’ve got is a mix of different viewpoints and interpretations which are justified with reference to available facts.

    It really depends what your point of view is. I have some sympathy with SF’s opinion on the devolution of policing and justice powers, the sooner it happens the better. However, I see no justification for boycotting the executive. I do not see how anyone can justify bringing the house down over that issue. As an NI citizen, I’m very annoyed that the elected government is being stopped from going about it’s business because of the narrow minded intransigence of Sinn Fein.

    Peter Baker may not be able to see it through his orange tinted glasses but P+J is central to the deal, surely you see that. Even the governments both agree.

    I disagree. Devolution of policing and justice powers is very important and it needs to happen soon. The fact remains that no firm deadline has been established. There is no justification in the agreement for aborting the whole thing if this single element cannot be resolved quickly enough.

  • pith

    william,

    Couldn’t agree more.

  • USA

    Comrade Stalin,
    I see value in most of what you say, even your opening comments about Peter Baker. Perhaps its a style issue and I prefer the blogger to be more of a moderator than a partisan participant. I have tried to give him the benefit of the doubt many times in the past but he strikes me as somewhat of a one hit wonder.

    If I understand you correctly, you may be saying that you would prefer to give economic issues priority over the P+J issue. While I respect your viewpoint as someone who lives there, I tend to think the P+J issue is so fundamental to the success of your experiment in democracy that it needs to be addressed and resolved “sooner rather than later”. I feel the economic issues will always remain mired until you have a sound basis for a democratic system that appears workable to the majority of the populace. Otherwise the vacuum will be filled with ner do wells and sectarian tension will be allowed to fester and grow. Under such political conditions your economic well being cannot flourish, you only have to look at the mistakes made in your recent history to see this.
    The experiences of nationalists under previous P+J arrangements dictates that SF must take this issue all the way. If they withdraw then the “dissidents” will gain support. Equally Peter Robinson has painted himself into a corner where he must continue to oppose devolution or the TUV will attempt to outflank him. SF and DUP need to work out a solution for everyone “sooner rather than later”.
    Possible outcomes:
    1. No dialogue and experiment in democracy fails. Plan B (whatever that is).
    2. DUP give in and lose electoral support to TUV, Nigel Dodds, Wee Jeffrey go for Robinsons jugular in DUP blood letting.
    3. SF give in and dissidents gain ground leading to the death of a police officer and its back to square one. SF hierarchy positions become shaky and may we may see new faces.
    4. Both parties lose support at next election due to populace demand for functioning government.
    5. Both parties address and solve the P+J issue to save themselves and the peace process.

    I really don’t see how it is much more complicated than that.

  • Pete Baker

    USA

    “Your links always go to something denouncing SF..”

    Total entries [on Slugger]: 3186

    Feel free to check the archive.

    “Peter Baker may not be able to see it through his orange tinted glasses but P+J is central to the deal..”

    You miss the point.

    Sinn Féin sold the “indigenous” deal to their supporters on that basis, without any commitment on a date.

    As Maurice Hayes pointed out.

    Sinn Fein needs these powers to be devolved, not only because they represent the last piece of the Patten jigsaw, but because it was a main element in the bill of sale on which they persuaded republicans to buy into support for policing.

    For Patten, it was a defining function of government, and a manifest of the commitment of parties to defend the institutions and the common good, that they should exercise these powers. For Sinn Fein and republicans, it is symbolically important that these powers should be exercised by local politicians responsible to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Without that, the Sinn Fein leadership would not have got agreement, and failure to deliver will seriously damage their credibility.

    And “their credibility” is why they’ve manufactured this crisis kerfuffle.

  • USA

    Clarification:
    If Sinn Fein “withdraw”. I mean if they withdraw from the face off over P+J, not from the executive. This however remains a distinct possibility if the P+J issue is not dealt with in some form.

  • Pete Baker

    USA

    And if you don’t like that orange view, you could try Eamonn McCann.

    Or perhaps Patrick Murphy?

  • USA

    Peter Baker,
    To the best of my knowledge the Patten Proposals were put together by the British. It was a major British government undertaking on the road to peace.

    In your own quoted piece Patten himself says that P+J is “a defining function of government, and a manifest of the commitment of parties to defend the institutions and the common good, that they should exercise these powers.”

    Nothing has changed, the DUP got on board the peace process train rather late. We even had to go via Scotland to pick them up as they had gotten lost in the wilderness. But its still the only game in town, the rules never changed, P+J is a “defining function of government”. It was part of a total package, it cannot be seperated out now by the DUP. That would be another example of moving the goal posts and I don’t think that will be allowed to happen this time.

  • Pete Baker

    Still missing the point, USA?

    The Sinn Féin leadership sold the “indigenous” deal on the basis of a deadline for devolving those powers of May 2008.

    A deadline that never existed and wasn’t enforceable.

    When that date came and went Sinn Féin started blocking the Executive meetings.

    The DUP are not opposed to the devolution of those powers, but they have the final say in when it happens – that was the actual “indigenous” deal.

  • USA

    Peter Baker,
    Don’t adopt that arrogant “still missing the point” attitude with me. How dare you try to confine the discussion within your own narrow parameters. You really are full of yourself.

    Again in your own words: “The DUP are not opposed to the devolution of those powers”. Ahem, your PARTNERS in government would like to address the issue NOW.

    Baker there is no point harping on about the same issue over and over again. Despite your obviously high opinion of yourself, you are not such an intellectual heavy weight that you are going to change anyone’s mind anytime soon.

    No matter what you may think about P+J the reality is your little experiment in democracy is in danger of failing on this issue.

    I listed five possible outcomes, consider them and pick one.

    PS. Run over to the shops and get a new attitude.
    PPS. Given that you have posted around 3186 times on Slugger you may want to consider also getting a life while you are at the shops.

  • OC

    Sammy Mc:

    Is the use of “Engleze” similar to the use of “Erse”?

  • Greenflag

    CS ,

    ‘Devolution of policing and justice powers is very important and it needs to happen soon.’

    Wrong .

    It needed to happen in June .Too little and too late as always from the Unionist camp. This will lead either to the direct demise of the Assembly on this issue , or some other ‘rationale ‘ will be found later by the DUP or SF . The sooner the better anyway . Roll on repartition and be done with this 40 year long farce of an attempt to impose ‘democracy’ on an artificial State in which ‘normal’ democracy can never survive without outside ‘life support’

    It’s no longer even funny enough to ridicule 🙁

  • Pete Baker

    “Given that you have posted around 3186 times on Slugger you may want to consider also getting a life while you are at the shops.”

    So I’ve been told, USA, many times before..

    “Don’t adopt that arrogant “still missing the point” attitude with me.”

    And you are?

    Beyond an anonymous commenter responding to one of my posts, that is.

    Btw, I’m not trying to “to change anyone’s mind anytime soon.”

    But when someone claims that a detailed factual noting of events is instead a view through “orange tinted glasses” I will correct them.

    So, once again,

    The Sinn Féin leadership sold the “indigenous” deal on the basis of a deadline for devolving those powers of May 2008.

    A deadline that never existed and wasn’t enforceable.

    When that date came and went Sinn Féin started blocking the Executive meetings.

    The DUP are not opposed to the devolution of those powers, but they have the final say in when it happens – that was the actual “indigenous” deal.

    By all means attempt to falsify that account of events – preferably with evidence.

    And if our “little experiment in democracy is in danger of failing on this issue” then it’s even more important to understand exactly why this crisis is being manufactured.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Pete,

    at this stage of the proceeedings no one really give a flying feck why the DUP ( and the UU and the Alliance party ) are all saying NO to the transfer of Police.

    Without the use of hyperlinks or obfuscation behind a series of quotes answer this simple question. Do you accept that the DUP are out of step with 2 governments on the issue of the implementation of STA?

  • indeed

    Pete Baker

    Short of the DUP accepting the immediate devolution of P+J what do you think they could do to break the current impasse? Similarly, if we accept your argument as to the causes of the impasse, what if anything do you think that Sinn Fein would accept short of devolution of P+J to allow it to reingage with the Executive?

  • ggn

    I would like to hear from unionists as to what they believe the incentive for Sinn Fein to give up on P&J;is?

  • Pete Baker

    Sammy Mac and “indeed”

    Your line of argument assumes that no-one either understands, nor questions, how we arrived at this manufactured crisis.

    When, in fact, that arrival is perfectly clear,

    The Sinn Féin leadership sold the “indigenous” deal on the basis of a deadline for devolving those powers of May 2008.

    A deadline that never existed and wasn’t enforceable.

    When that date came and went Sinn Féin started blocking the Executive meetings.

    The DUP are not opposed to the devolution of those powers, but they have the final say in when it happens – that was the actual “indigenous” deal.

    And now the Sinn Féin leadership want everyone else to supply what they had promised to deliver.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Pete,

    I’m not saying no one understands or questions why we are where we are. That is important – but not AS important as the fact that we are now HERE.

    The SDLP agree with your analysis but believe that the DUP should move NOW – irrespective of what was in or not in the STA.

    So I ask you again a simple question that relates to the current crisis

    “Do you accept that the DUP are out of step with 2 governments on the issue of the implementation of STA? “

  • Danny O’Connor

    Get real people,none of the people I speak to have p&j;as their priority.People are worried about the cost of electricity,oil, food etc.
    P&J;is not yet devolved – so why should it be on the executives agenda- it is not something which they can do anything about-unlike fuel poverty ,jobs , health,education etc ;- and there is much to be done.
    P&J;was a matter that SF gave the DUP a veto on,even if it was to be devolved on SF terms tomorrow and a minister proposed,because of SF naivete in deciding how s/he is appointed(not d’hondt)-a cross community vote,The DUP could accept the devolving of powers and refuse to support any ministerial nomination thereby using another veto that SF conceded to them.

  • Pete Baker

    Sammy

    I know you think this is some kind of killer point on which your argument rests, but it’s not.

    The governments’ position is that it is for the parties to decide when those powers are devolved.

    That they want it to happen as soon as possible should not be a surprise, given that that would relieve the pressure on the Sinn Féin leadership.

    After all, they have invested a lot of time and effort in ensuring that leadership was, and remained, in place over a long number of years in order to bring the rest of the party, et al, to this point of The Process™

    And you just don’t get that kind of co-operation every day of the week.

  • kensei

    Pete

    And you are?

    And you are?

    Some dude throwing rocks from a website with an overblown sense of his own self importance. Seriously, is there anything more pathetic than this response?

    But when someone claims that a detailed factual noting of events is instead a view through “orange tinted glasses” I will correct them.

    Perfectly possible to present facts through “orange tinted glasses” if that is how you so choose.

    And now the Sinn Féin leadership want everyone else to supply what they had promised to deliver.

    Actually no, Pete, they are using the levers at their control in an attempt to force progress. They are not a powerless observer, which is the point you consistently seem to miss.

    After all, they have invested a lot of time and effort in ensuring that leadership was, and remained, in place over a long number of years in order to bring the rest of the party, et al, to this point of The Process™

    And you just don’t get that kind of co-operation every day of the week.

    No. But it remains to be seen what the governments will do if the the whole edifice comes crashing down. I’d hate to future, but you’d think they might want to look into it.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Pete, your respone to the question “Do you accept that the DUP are out of step with 2 governments on the issue of the implementation of STA?”

    is

    ” know you think this is some kind of killer point on which your argument rests, but it’s not.”

    The significance of this point is that illuminates the political reality of the situation – ie there is Unionist veto – which the governments and Nationalist Ireland want movemnet on – irrespective of how it has been arrived at.

    Your failure to concede this point (which the facts point towards) shows the weakness of your analayis – which although many may agree with – is clearly not the MOST relevant analyis in the current politcal impasse.

  • Dewi

    “Sinn Fein needs these powers to be devolved, not only because they represent the last piece of the Patten jigsaw, but because it was a main element in the bill of sale on which they persuaded republicans to buy into support for policing.”

    Pete – reads that a couple of times, have a little think about shared futures, and perhaps you might come to the view that it’s time to move.

  • Comrade Stalin

    USA:

    If I understand you correctly, you may be saying that you would prefer to give economic issues priority over the P+J issue.

    I do not see the issue as being one of “priority”. Policing and justice powers need to be devolved, and to be sensible, there is a limited amount that the assembly can do about the economic situation. But there is no justification for all other business to be stopped. I am afraid that Pete’s interpretation of things, to me, lines up with the facts; Sinn Fein spun the StAA to their supporters, claimed that it said something that it did not, and hung themselves on a hook which the DUP are now exploiting. The DUP are in a position to do this because Sinn Fein completely fluffed their hand during the negotiations; they allowed themselves to be bullied into signing up to the deal as part of Tony Blair’s swansong.

    I don’t think the DUP’s position is fair or right, but it is nonetheless justifiable by the letter of the agreement. As I’ve said before, we’ve been through this before when SF signed up to the GFA with a very literal interpretation of the decommissioning requirements of that Agreement.

    While I respect your viewpoint as someone who lives there, I tend to think the P+J issue is so fundamental to the success of your experiment in democracy that it needs to be addressed and resolved “sooner rather than later”.

    I think it is very important, but not that important. Policing is far from perfect here, but do you hear anyone blaming the mismanagement of the British security minister for that ? The Chief Constable is appointed by the Police Board, and our local parties are all already represented there. Frankly, I do not envisage local parties making substantial improvements to policing once they take over. They don’t have the imagination or the courage to do so. That’s why I don’t see the big deal. I see the issue as being about a point of principle, albeit one which must be resolved, and I think it’s wrong to stop the executive over such a point of principle.

    I feel the economic issues will always remain mired until you have a sound basis for a democratic system that appears workable to the majority of the populace.

    Employers, investors and businesspeople have not identified the failure to devolve policing as a problem for their businesses at this stage.

    Otherwise the vacuum will be filled with ner do wells and sectarian tension will be allowed to fester and grow. Under such political conditions your economic well being cannot flourish, you only have to look at the mistakes made in your recent history to see this.

    As I said above, I think it’s naive to think that we will have perfect policing immediately after the powers are devolved. I also do not think there is any evidence that the sectarian tensions are effected one way or another by the presence or absence of these powers. If someone in Sinn Fein, or eirigi for that matter, has to make a claim on their home insurance or car insurance, they’ll need a crime reference number, and they’ll call the cops to get one whether policing is devolved or not.

    The experiences of nationalists under previous P+J arrangements dictates that SF must take this issue all the way. If they withdraw then the “dissidents” will gain support.

    Support for dissidents will not melt away following devolution of justice and policing powers. In fact, if the local minister is to do anything, there will have to be a crackdown on criminal elements in our society and that includes dissidents who are planning or directing acts of terrorism. The dissidents are not going to like that and they’ll try to use it for recruitment.

    Equally Peter Robinson has painted himself into a corner where he must continue to oppose devolution or the TUV will attempt to outflank him. SF and DUP need to work out a solution for everyone “sooner rather than later”.

    I don’t believe Robinson intends to perpetually block this, but he is certainly not going to gamble his own party out of concern for the greater good. I would point out that Sinn Fein, equally, would not gamble the IRA’s weapons for the greater good of the process either. If Robinson is not ready to move, he will not move, and if that means an assembly collapse then that will happen.

    The point where this comes to a head is the next major election, which is the European election in June 2009. Once that is out of the way, Robinson will be able to see where Allister’s support lies. A defeat of the TUV at that election will, I imagine, lead to the process moving on swiftly at that time.

    I don’t think the scenarios of Robinson getting knifed are likely; Robinson won’t lose support if the assembly collapses. Jim Allister’s reason to exist disappears when there is no powersharing government with SF.

  • USA

    Comarade Stalin,
    Thank you for your considered reply.
    Again I can agree with most of what you say. To clarify a couple of points:
    I only think Robinson would get knifed if he backed down and made a P+J deal soon. This would embolded the TUV and if they were successful electorally the knives would be out quickly for Robinson.
    Also, I was suggesting that if P+J was not devolved it is an issue that can foster tension and give oxygen to groups opposed to the Peace Process. At the moment business owners may not be too worried but best to get it done and dusted so it does not contribute to political instability.
    Other than those two points of clarification I think your analysis is pretty much on the money.