“that would be gross bad faith..”

As the iol report notes, the scheduled Assembly and Executive Review Committee meeting “was cancelled at short notice today”. Instead the DUP’s Ian Paisley Jnr and Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd appeared on Stormont Live “tearing strips off each other over what their two parties did or did not agree on devolving policing and justice.” The first problem for John O’Dowd, and Sinn Féin, is that their truncated quoting of the relevant line of the letter co-signed by Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson doesn’t do what they claim it does – i.e. time-limit the agreed mechanism for electing a Justice Minister. Although there does seem to be a time limit for one element of that letter of agreement – that neither the DUP nor Sinn Féin would nominate someone for the first term. Secondly, they don’t appear to be able to quote anything in the letter which does time-limit the agreed mechanism. And, finally, the mutual veto that a cross-community vote represents is actually a logical compromise for such a political sensitive post. Of course, the parties could always change the mechanism at a later date.. provided they could agree. Second part of clip below the fold.
Continued.

And that line from the letter of agreement 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.”

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

Indeed.

, , , ,

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    It appears the DUP misunderstood what SF meant – now it has been clarified for them it appears the DUP have a problem. Oh Dear. Junior jabbering Johnny laughing – sums it up.

  • George

    Great stuff to watch.

    So SF’s position is that SF and the DUP step away from the first Justice Minister position and the DUP’s is that there is a unionist veto over the position as long as unionists are in a majority.

    It certainly looks like there won’t be any Executive meeting any time soon because all SF has to say is that they can’t vote to accept such a deal. No votes lost with that move.

  • lorraine

    tweedle dee-tweedle dum pete.
    yawn.
    going to bed
    f. all interesting until the morning when the results will be in.

    night all..

  • Reader

    George: DUP’s is that there is a unionist veto over the position as long as unionists are in a majority.
    The DUP’s position is that either a unionist or nationalist minority would hold a veto over the position so long as a cross community vote is needed to fill it. That seem both (a) sensible and (b) equal.
    The rules could always be changed by the Assembly if there was a sudden outbreak of trust and confidence.

  • x

    for a trained lawyer, you’d think IPJ would be able to read a simple letter and understand it.

    Clearly the P&J;minister will at all times be elected by the Assembly – fine – in a way that would ensure cross community support – again fine But this does not mean the P&J;minister will be elected by a cross community vote – it may do but it is also possible it wont.

    As with everything the DUP sign up to, St Andrews Agreement for example, the ink is hardly dry before they seek to re interpret the meaning in a very jesuitical fashion. Normally the reason being their supporters aren’t up to the next challenge.

    Did this letter not pass the “12 apostles” test?

  • Mike C

    x

    When did IPJ become a trained lawyer?

  • Mick Fealty

    George,

    I’ve no idea what when on in the privacy of OFMDFM, but the letter is the product. Granted we’ve not seen all of the letter, but I’ve not seen anything that makes any sense of what Sinn Fein says about it.

    Look again at that text? It’s a fecking veto! Anything that steps outside d’Hondt is a break not simply with St Andrews but with Belfast too.

    x,

    What you say is possible. But that would suggest evidence of an alternative means, otherwise why on earth would the DFM have signed this off.

    I’ve not heard any evidence of that. Have you?

    The real story here is not the disagreement between the DUP and SF, but what on earth is going on inside SF?

    I just cannot believe that rank stupidity of this play is going down well with with the wider activist base. Sending serious talent like O’Dowd to argue black is white against a guy who is naturally a much poorer communicator than him is not only reckless, it is politically irresponsible.

  • x

    MF

    Sinn fein, and for that the DUP, have always sought to create problems with language. Clearly in NI our political parties constantly write things with the intention of leaving significant wriggle room or re interpretation room.

    Remember “constructive ambiguity”?

    This has been useful at times at other times such ambiguity has led to problems – but only when problems are wanted.

    This is a clear example of a wanted problem – by both sides.

    As for alternatives methods of electing there are three systems already known to the Asssembly, simple majority, simple cross community or a majority in both designations – and this doesn’t include redesignation as required!

  • Ulsters my homeland

    ….you can always rely on Lurch to complete the most arduous of tasks when summoned by the Addams family.

  • Steve

    Mick

    Couldnt this be playing well to SF’s base?

    SF smiled and swallowed a lot of crap trying to make the government work and now that they don’t seem as interested they are leaving dupers to appear to twist in the wind

  • Mick Fealty

    x

    I do remember it, but you can only utilise ambiguity where it already pre-exists. Since there is no ambiguity here (unless you completely re-write both Agreements to say something other than they do), it just comes across as good old fashioned ‘messing’.

    I do understand the willingness of some here to suspend disbelief in favour of SF, but that this action requires people to that just further underlines the political weakness of a position no one forced them to adopt.

  • Mick Fealty

    Steve,

    Surprised to see you here. You are red carded for that utterly uncalled for abuse you handed out last night. Come back in a fortnight please.

    UMH,

    And you’ll follow him if you cannot make a point without playing the man!!

  • Ulsters my homeland

    apologies Mick. It’s one for Folks on the hill.

  • Steve

    Ahh it was a bit of craik on some one who thought he had the right to demand an answer and was getting quite insuferable about it. You should give me credit for ignoring him for quite awhile

    As for the abuse I think it was UMH who started that and he has, as you accuse me of, form on it

  • Steve

    And atleast I show you the respect of using a real email address

  • Ulsters my homeland

    give it a rest steve.

  • Steve

    umh

    I dont take orders from your sort which was kind of the point of last night

  • George

    Mick,
    the interpretation of the “at all times from the Assembly” presented by SF makes sense to me.

    The way I understand the “in a way which would ensure cross-community support” is either parallel consent or the 60% to 40% weighted majority.

    Is that the understanding of the DUP of this term? I don’t know if SF have stated it to mean something different.

    Reader,
    Paisley Jr stated in the clip that the DUP already has a veto over Justice as it could pick that ministry first under d’Hondt.

    Of course this has the problem that nationalists would then always have the Finance Ministry.

    Not surprisingly, the DUP would prefer first pick of the ministries and the right to decide who gets justice going forward.

  • Mick Fealty

    George,

    That bit I get. And I’ve not heard the DUP demur from that. I could be wrong here, because my mind has been elsewhere recently, but the term SF are insisting is there (but actually isn’t) is that this is all only to happen once.

    Referring to position papers before the letter was agreed and published is tantamount to saying:

    “I know we bought the Mini, but I said when I came in the shop that we wanted the Ferrari”.

    Which begs the question, what exactly is driving SF in all of this? If it’s meant to put the DUP off their stride, it ain’t working so far as I can see.

  • George

    Mick,
    ah, the penny finally drops, thanks. I couldn’t understand the endless hair-splitting on this.

    So SF’s policy is that the first Justice Minister has to have cross-community support but after that it returns to d’Hondt while the DUP wants the cross-community support to remain indefinitely.

    As to who know what position was agreed, I’ve gone through around six of Pete’s links and can’t find the full text of the letter anywhere. All I have is that sentence so if there is a link to it I’d appreciate it.

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s not been released, I don’t think.

  • George

    Mick,
    speculating here so:

    The DUP seem to be getting hung up on the “at all times” so much so that Paisley Jr started calling it “for all time”.

    There seems to be less emphasis on the phrase “in a way which would ensure cross-community support”.

    This makes no sense to me. Surely if the cross-community element is the permanent thing the DUP agreed this is the phrase they would be concentrating on.

    This leads me to believe that the “consideration” being requested in the letter is either meant only for the first appointment or is ambiguous on the issue of term.

    Normally with these ambiguous deals in NI you put them in place and then start arguing once things are up and running.

    It seems the arguing this time has started before the deal has even begun.

    What’s Sinn Féin got to gain from this?

    They have gotten the DUP to say how they will agree to the devolution of policing and justice, namely the cross-community support.

    Now the DUP have to justify why they don’t trust nationalists to ever hold/need a permanent veto over the justice ministry.

    SF can simply say that if the trust to devolve justice is there, then you have to trust nationalists with the ministry.

    It’s a no-brainer for SF to draw this one out otherwise it’s pushover nationalism time.

    Using the good old decommissioning analogy, it’s a bit like when the guns were rusting in the ground and the IMC inspectors were able to see them, unionists asked then why not just destroy them.

  • Ian

    In that clip Ian Paisley Jr doesn’t seem to understand the way a cross-community vote works. He states that as long as unionists remain a mojority in the Assembly, they would have a veto, but if nationalists overtook unionists in the Assembly, then “that dynamic would change”. Surely cross-community consent means that both unionists and nationalists have vetoes, no matter which side is in the majority?

    If d’Hondt were used to elect the Justice Minister, then he would have a point in terms of the first Ministerial appointment. I think the fear that SF would then get the Finance Ministry is the key to why unionists are reluctant to allow d’Hondt to be the mechanism for P&J;.

  • Ian

    Pete:

    “the mutual veto that a cross-community vote represents is actually a logical compromise for such a political sensitive post.”

    Surely the First Minister and DFM are equally sensitive posts, yet the DUP negotiated away the requirement for a cross-community vote for those posts as they couldn’t stomach the consequence that they’d have to vote for McGuinness for DFM.

  • Ian

    x (in post #5):

    “Clearly the P&J;minister will at all times be elected by the Assembly”

    That word ‘by’ isn’t in the text of the letter! It says “from the Assembly”.

    I think this may be the key to the misunderstanding. The DUP are reading the letter as if it said:

    “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 [b]by[/b] the Assembly in a way which would ensure cross-community support.”

    Whereas the actual wording, “at all times [b]from[/b] the Assembly” backs up SF’s assertion that the intention is to dispel the notion of a non-elected Commissioner taking the Justice portfolio.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ian,

    It may take care of there not being a commissioner involved: but what baring does the difference between ‘by’ and ‘from’ have the actual dispute? None that I can see.

    Re Junior, as I pointed out above O’Dowd’s the better communicator of the two, by far. The dynamic would change if a more moderate unionist party was prepared to have someone in SF as Justice Minister. A shift across the aisle so to speak would, as you say, have little effect.

    But all of this is (like a number of talking points we’ve had on this issue over the last couple of years): utterly besides the point.

    SF are trying to swap that Mini for the Ferrari they wanted in the first place. And I can’t see how they do that any more than they were able to convert that timetable into a deadline.

  • Ian

    Elected FROM the Assembly simply means that an MLA takes the post. Elected BY the Assembly means that the entire membership of the Assembly have to vote for someone (who could be an MLA or a non-MLA) to fill the appointment.

    As for the [i]actual[/i] dispute, it seems to me that it isn’t a dispute as to [i]what[/i] was agreed, rather a disagreement as to [i]whether[/i] a mechanism for appointment was agreed. DUP say yes, both the ministerial model and the mechanism for appointment were agreed. SF argue that all that was agreed was (a) the ministerial model (single department and single minister) and (b) both SF and DUP would exclude themselves from taking the post for the first term. One other point coming out of that O’Dowd interview is that he seems to dispute the SDLP’s claim that the deal specifically excludes the SDLP from the post. There’s no explicit mention of an Alliance Minister in the letter.

    Nor is there a mention of a cross-community vote to appoint, only the phrase “in a way which would ensure cross-community support” which is a rather vague notion. It could be argued that ensuring that the Minister is an MLA (as opposed to an English MP) would in itself enhance cross-community support.

    So in conclusion, it’s clear that the appointment mechanism hasn’t been agreed yet. Back to the ongoing negotiations.

  • Reader

    Ian: It could be argued that ensuring that the Minister is an MLA (as opposed to an English MP) would in itself enhance cross-community support.
    “Enhance” isn’t the same as “Ensure”. Ask Ruane. Or Campbell.

  • edward

    Correct me if I am wrong but I think Ian is saying that Sinn Fein is saying that the wording means that a weighted majority is whats needed for the minister to be selected thus the cross community support.

    Or is it just a matter of electing to take the post when the D’Hondt selection mechanism is employed after the next election?

    While the dupers are saying that Sinn Fein and the DUP both have a veto over future P&J;minister, thus ensuring mutualy assured destruction

  • Ian

    What I am saying is that it isn’t entirely clear what the mechanism should be, that perhaps the mechanism isn’t yet agreed. In fact, from recent events it’s clear that it isn’t agreed. What isn’t clear is whether SF and DUP agree that they HAD agreed it!

    Perhaps it’s SF’s intention for the Executive Review Committee to agree the precise details of the appointment mechanism. After all, if every last detail was previously agreed between the FM and DFM, then what is there left for the ERC to consider?

    The answer may be in the context of the full letter from FM/DFM, i.e. “We believe that your consideration should be…” refers to consideration of what??

  • Ian

    Reader:

    ““Enhance” isn’t the same as “Ensure”.”

    No, but ‘enhance’ is a step on the journey to the destination that is ‘ensure’.

    There’s a large swathe of the nationalist population that is sceptical about supporting the police. Devolving P&J;powers would enhance that support. In fact, come to think of it, that phrase “in a way which would ensure cross-community support” could be referring to support for the police in general, rather than support for the justice ministerial appointment.

    As I said above, it’s a vague concept that different parties can interpret in different ways. Perhaps that phrase should not have been included in the letter as it’s only added to the confusion over what was (or wasn’t) agreed.

    And if ‘ensuring’ cross-community support is interpreted as EVERYONE being happy with the outcome, well that’s a destination that will never be reached. Some might think that’s the DUP’s intention?

  • Ian

    So to summarise MY interpretation, I’ll quote Pete B:

    “The first problem for Sinn Féin is that their truncated quoting of the relevant line of the letter co-signed by Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson doesn’t do what they claim it does – i.e. time-limit the agreed mechanism for electing a Justice Minister.”

    and point out that in fact nor does the letter do what Pete B claims it does – i.e. lay out ANY agreed mechanism for electing a Justice Minister.

  • Ian

    Should have been “nor does the quote from the letter do what Pete B claims it does”.

    And therefore on the evidence we have (that quote), accusations by Ian Paisley Jr of “gross bad faith” on the part of Sinn Fein are without justification.

  • Ian

    Edward: “Correct me if I am wrong but I think Ian is saying that Sinn Fein is saying that the wording means that a weighted majority is whats needed for the minister to be selected thus the cross community support. ”

    In fact, that appears to be the DUP’s position:

    http://www.irishnews.com/articles/540/542/2008/11/3/601853_362227032610Doddssets.html

    “The DUP’s Ian Paisley jnr told conference that the party must drive the debate on the devolution of policing and justice and set the parameters.

    He said the party quite rightly had an agreed position that for “all time” the assembly would determine who the justice minister should be by a weighted vote.

    “This means our choice of ministers is not affected by the allocation of this post but we must ensure that we can veto who takes this position,” Mr Paisley said.”

    i.e. the DUP want to have their cake and eat it, or rather want to have their cake and stop SF from getting any.

  • Mick Fealty

    I hope Martin’s reading this Ian. Expect to hear some of it co-opted if Noel ever gets a chance to question him directly! 😉

    However, before he does, the axiomatic problem with your argument lies in the several uses of the word ‘perhaps’. Everything that follows is pure speculation.

    As for the DUP, it seems to me that whether through poor negotiation skills or by an intention to appease, it’s SF that’s been feeding them that cake.

  • edward

    From see Ian’s perspective it looks like SF has been feeding them rope not cake

  • Agreed Ed. But I just can’t see his ‘working out’.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    [i]From see Ian’s perspective it looks like SF has been feeding them rope not cake

    Posted by edward on Nov 07, 2008 @ 08:03 PM
    Agreed Ed. But I just can’t see his ‘working out’.

    Posted by Mick on Nov 07, 2008 @ 09:27 PM2[/i]

    Is ‘rope’ some type of political student lingo for something? Excuse me if I haven’t got the hang of this lingo, so bear with me.

  • Pete Baker

    Mick

    “I just can’t see his ‘working out’.”

    That might be because Sinn Féin have not actually contested the mechanism described in the letter of agreement co-signed by Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson.

    “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.”

    i.e. something other than a party nomination through d’Hondt.

    Instead they have decided to contest how long that other mechanism should stay in place.

    Their problem is that the letter of agreement does not appear to specify a time element for its use – beyond “at all times”, that is..

  • George

    Pete,
    Their problem is that the letter of agreement does not appear to specify a time element for its use – beyond “at all times”, that is..

    I don’t think that assumption can be made from the single sentence made available. The “at all times” clearly refers to the Minister being an MLA so is also no time-specifying element. We are all in the dark.

  • Ian

    Pete:

    “That might be because Sinn Féin have not actually contested the mechanism described in the letter of agreement… i.e. something other than a party nomination through d’Hondt.”

    But there is no mechanism described in the letter – only the vauge phrase “in a way which would ensure cross-community support”.

    Another interpretation of that phrase could be (and Mick, perhaps the reason I’m speculating is because we DON’T have the detail that Pete claims has been agreed [and then allegedly un-agreed in an act of bad faith by SF]):

    d’Hondt IS run for the Justice Ministry, but both the DUP and SF decline to nominate to the post as they are widely seen as the most extreme party from each side of the community. Thus one of the moderate parties gains the post via the d’Hondt mechanism whilst ensuring cross-community support.

    Again, I admit this is pure speculation on my part as to the meaning of the ‘cross-community support’ phrase in the extract of the letter that I have seen, but that is no more than what others appear to have done by their ASSUMING that ‘cross-community support’ means a cross-community vote has to take place.

  • Ian

    In other words, the charge that SF have agreed to a situation where “no nationalist need apply” for the Justice post, is merely one interpretation of the extract from the letter, which as far as I can see doesn’t [i]explicitly[/i] state that a non-designated MLA has to take the post.

    (Mark Durkan who made that charge has obviously read the letter in its entirety and therefore may have more information to hand on which to make that judgement.)