“mood music inside the Castle WAS improving recently..”

BBC NI political editor, and blogger, Mark Devenport draws together some thoughts, after 21 weeks of Sinn Féin blocking NI Executive meetings, on the closed session Assembly and Executive Review Committee meeting about that letter of agreement and the hush-hush trip to Downing St. He also notes

Neither the DUP nor Sinn Fein were interviewed for a companion report going out on tonight’s BBC Newsline at 6.30pm. Is that because a) they are embarrassed talking about it or b) their secret talks are on the brink of a breakthrough?

Probably (a). Although, those aren’t mutually exclusive answers.. Of course, they certainly wouldn’t want any “stupid” questions.. But, if (b) then, as Mark also notes, why the belligerent tone from Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams on the eve of a DUP executive meeting?

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  • slug

    The belligerent tone could be a distraction from the loss of face of doing a less then perfect (from their point of view) agreement?

  • Pete Baker


    That’s certainly a plausible reason.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Fair point by Grizzly – same point as made by former head of Norn Iron civil service who observed similarties with Afrikaaner mindset.

    Pete, the bias in your presentation of the facts only serves to undermine whatever point you make -as usual not a morsel about the non-implementation of the STA – leaving the DUP (and Unionists ) out of step with everyone else.

  • truth and justice

    Did anyone see Hearts and Minds Jim Allaister had a terrible interview, McCausland did a good job in exposing him.

  • Mick Fealty


    I’ve some considerably sympathy with the idea that the DUP should get on with it; someone needs to provide leadership here certainly. And it’s not coming from any other quarter. Should policing and justice be devolved? Undoubtedly (under SAA the powers they hold won’t add up to much that would spook Unionist horses).

    But the question of ‘when’ was never tied down by the SAA; despite denials by your good self that the ‘timetable not a deadline’ argument would count in the face of overwhelming force from the ‘englezes’. In that respect, the DUP are reading directly from the SF playbook on decommissioning. No one said we should, so we won’t, ‘without extracting a price’ that is.

    I’ve been puzzling for months why SF would signal its own weakness as publicly as this, and I am slowly coming to the conclusion that this period of discord and executive inaction has been acting as a slow decontamination anti chamber to the Chuckle Brothers act.

    In this, it works as well for the DUP as it does for SF. Jim Allister barely landed a blow last night on Hearts and Minds, partly because the Shinners are currently in a deep freeze of their own creation.

    I suspect slug is right. At some stage, possibly soon, SF will emerge from this long period of ‘social action’ with some sort of ‘legal contraption’ backed by Westminster that gives them a fig leaf for their activists. But I very much doubt it will be a date. And we know there were compromises in education and the Irish language possible long before this ‘sham(e) fight’ began. It’s been another period where optics have mattered more than substance.

    The advantages that will likely accrue at the end:

    – appearances have cooled in the public eye between SF and the DUP (though, remember, for this thing to work, they must continue to live in each other’s pockets much as they did previously)

    – no long term political damage inflicted on either party by their ‘in-tribe’ opponents.

    – a sense of relief when the schools finally become subject to a negotiated settlement that finally accepts regulated selection in schools.

    – the public embrace of liberal values when an Irish language strategy (the Act is long dead, I fear) is finally adopted. And general relief amongst activists who have many other things to be getting on with…

    – and on policing….? Well we won’t know till we see the whites of its eyes…

    Just remember that, when it comes, all of this stuff was actionable at the beginning of the summer.

    And all of this deal will have been ‘negotiated’ between people (four ministers and six paid advisers) who already share the intimacy of the most powerful office in Northern Irish politics (outside PSNI headquarters and the NIO).

    No wonder Gerry was asked to leave by the back door at Downing Street.

    All this, and you are still giving Pete a hard time for not being able to suspend his disbelief like so many others so generously have?

  • Tampico

    Jim’s performance on H&M;was woeful. The rantings and ravings of a madman. I loved his continual references to himself in the third person. A sure sign of a man in full control of himself!

  • “Today another meeting is being cancelled, bringing the gap since the last ministerial gathering to 147 days.” .. DD

    OMG, the Executive is ‘snookered’ 😉

  • blinding

    by Tampico

    I loved his continual references to himself in the third person. A sure sign of a man in full control of himself!

    If ever there was an outward sign of a man disappearing up his own backside then this is it.

    Beware all those that refer to themselves in the third person.

  • Ian

    Well Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair used to do that, and you could hardly accuse him of not being a well-balanced, reasonable pillar of society?

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it


    I have nothing to add on the ‘Pete’ issue.

    The DUP are under political pressure from the right (TUV) from the east (Englezes) from the South (Irish Government) – pressure from Nationalists does not count as it probably simply heartens them. They should be under pressure from the ‘left’ but both the Alliance and UU are guilty of keeping their heads down and obfuscation.

    This pressuere is already translating into ‘blame’ as the DUP are now being publically associated with contributing to the instability of Norn Iron (SOS) and having seen their ‘serious consequences’ disappear as menaingless bluster they are open to the charge from TUV Jimbo that they have delivered chaos plus SF at Stormo.

    Having been consigned to the politcal wilderness, Jimbo can now see a chink of light, and unless the DUP can get themselves out of the corner he they have now backed themselves into – it will be Jimbo that will be doing the chuckling.

  • autocue


    3rd person references to himself reminded my of Bob Dole!

    “Bob Dole, doesn’t like Bob Dole being talked about by anyone other than Bob Dole!”

    Allister turned in an appalling performance on H+M last night. The body language was terrible. One shoulder up, then the other one, rocking in the chair, pointing his finger at McCausland, forced smiling etc, etc, etc.

    McCausland on the other hand just sat smiling at him when he was ranting at length. A very cool performance.

    From last night the DUP will have taken heart that Allister can be not only taken on in debates but beaten and beaten well out of sight!

  • Tampico

    Allister looked extremely shifty when pressed on his past manifesto endorsing the “evil” mandatory coalition. His inane laughing was a feeble attempt to try to make it a non-issue. Just a bitter old man. As was said of someone else recently, to be pittied more than scorned.

  • ggn


    “the public embrace of liberal values when an Irish language strategy (the Act is long dead, I fear) is finally adopted.”

    I fear you are falling into the mental trap that somehow SF control everything.

    SF do not control in anyway the IL movement which if you ask any of its main movers has been operating independentally, and fiercily so for 50 years, I am sure you know this.

    Unionists are of course convinced tha POBAL for example is but a SF cover name, a quick email to any SF member will confirm that not to be the case.

    One must understand that even the conservative wing of the Irish Language movement, or should that be the conservative Irish language movement consider Sinn Féin, for the most part to be ultra-conservative on the language question.

    No ‘strategy’ will cut any ice with the language movement, anyone on the demonstrations will now that even the conservative organisations are behind a language act.

    Any language strategy which strengthens the language as a ‘cultural language’ rather than a venacular will be rejected as a tactic againist the language.

    It is pointless to have a strategy on arts provision when you can be barred for speaking Irish in a workplace or when the state can arbitarily change your name.

    The Irish language is pressing againist the glass ceiling and againist the walls of the ghetto. Only an Acht will suffice at this stage, and I can asure all that we are dug in for long campaign.

    Sinn Féin can come back from Stormont with a strategy, but Gerry Adams knows himself that it will cut no ice, though I suspect some of his colleagues dont.

    BTW, Thon Jim Allister is a bit of a political lightweight in my opinion.

  • Mick Fealty

    I see where you’re coming from gg. and you are much closer to the language movement itself than I am, or ever was for that matter.

    But I really think that bird was flown the moment the Westminster legislative window was closed and Stormont opened.

    Whatever the language activists want, Gerry will have to be very creative in getting it; whatever ‘it’ ultimately turns out to be.

  • ggn

    “But I really think that bird was flown the moment the Westminster legislative window was closed and Stormont opened”.

    I dont disagree, however many of the issues involved are not devolved matters.

    I.e, regarding the justice system and broadcasting.

    I have always advised focusing on the substance rather than the symbolism, and much can still be achieved through lobbying Westminister, in the medium term.

  • ersehole

    So a language erm..strategy will be announced.

    Just big enough for cover Grizzly’s figs and just small enough for Robbo’s reactionaries.

    The restoration of the Irish language is a longterm project, táimid ag caint ar céadta.

    Tosaíonn an fheachtas nua ar lá na ‘stratéise’.

  • ggn

    “táimid ag caint ar céadta”

    Agus ní ábhar náire é sin a chara, chaith mé féin oíche le Gael Albain agus níl sé i gceist acusan idul go ciúin ach an oiread …

  • ersehole

    iontach sásta é sin a chluinstin ggn.

    is dóigh liom go bhfuil sé seo feicithe agat…

  • Billy


    I don’t think anyone (certainly not myself) is claiming that SF did a good job over P&J;at St Andrews.

    However, what I find amusing is Pete’s repetitive attempts to portray a situation where SF are being seen as the bad guys and the DUP as the good guys.

    That may well be the case among DUP Letter (sorry News Letter) readers and those who look at life through Red, White and Blue spectacles. However, as you very well know, that is not the case in the real world.

    At best (for the DUP) the current impasse is being seen as the fault of both sides equally. The DUP are most certainly being portrayed as intransigent in all impartial reports that I have seen.

    I tend to agree with you that some sort of compromise will be worked out but it’s as much a fig leaf for the DUP as for SF.

    The DUP have loudly proclaimed that P&J;will not be devolved until there is “Unionist confidence” and that they are sticking by the SAA.

    If the DUP stick rigidly to the SAA, they don’t have to do anything. Therefore, any compromise on this by the DUP (which is obviously inevitable) will be a sign that they have succumbed to political pressure and climbed down.

    I’m not a fan of Sinn Fein and this certainly hasn’t been something for them to brag about.

    However, any attempt by Unionists to portray this as a major victory is just laughable.

    The DUP have had a great time at the assembly to date pretty much blocking anything that comes from Nationalists. This has not gone unnoticed by the UK, US + Irish govts.

    While no-one is applauding SF behaviour, I think it is clear that there is a perception of “what goes around comes around” for the DUP.

    As I have said before, Unionists can whinge about Sinn Fein not holding executive meetings but they have shown (by their previous assembly behaviour) that are not ready to indulge in real, partnership co-operative govt.

    Frankly, this is make or break time for them. If they can’t act in real partnership, then the assembly is a total waste of time and money.

    Given the DUP actions to date, I don’t see why any Nationalist should worry too much if the assembly collapses. We certainly won’t get any worse a deal than we’ve got from DUP “Ministers”.

    It wouldn’t be hard to improve on the likes of Wilson, Campbell and Foster would it?