Will they won’t they parlour games on devolution of Policing and Justice

Interesting couple of days in Swansea at the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly (or the British Irish Assembly as one representative called it)… One of the hot backroom topics of speculation was when would the devolution of policing and justice be let down (the British proposals are expected to released today). Most non DUP sources Slugger spoke to emphasised the importance of getting the deal done before Christmas (Martin McGuinness’ preferred horizon); because of the shortage of time left in a timetable which may contain the last Labour government legislation for another decade. Everyone is singing from the same hymnsheet bar the DUP themselves. What’s preoccupying the DUP is the General Election (predicted by most to happen in May, but any anti Brown coup could foreground it to as early as February) and the damage they are likely to sustain from that intervention (our BIPA interview with Paul Bew briefly touches on that)…

Do a deal now and have a sense of movement to sell to the electorate say his political rivals. But not doing the deal now could buy them another year and possibly a new Tory administration with a decent majority. And in the meantime they baton down the hatches and hope the damage is limited.

In 2005, the DUP lucked out beyond their expectations when the UUP lost four out of its five seats. Pre the European elections few inside the party rated the efficacy of Reg’s game of footsie with David Cameron. And in many ways they still don’t. But now it’s clear that Allister has melded that rump of Unionist discontents into an effective rearguard force sufficient to snatch the party’s previously comfortable lead in previous elections, all the UU has to do is hold its strength and pray for a big enough dent in that DUP lead.

Vulnerabilities include: to varying degrees all three Antrim seats; Strangford and Upper Bann. The loss of all of those then contains the possibility of scaring the horses inside the Assembly. The loss of some could written off as the consequences of getting down to business. Sinn Fein on the other hand can look on the next electoral challenge with some equanimity.

The NIO are hoping for an official sign off about February. Sinn Fein want it before Christmas. But as we’ve pointed out ad nauseum in the past, this remains a decision for the DUP and no one else. And that may depend purely on whatever confidence building measures they can squeeze out of their partners in OFMdFM.

But at the moment both parties are privately complaining that the other is still refusing to talk what they each define as ‘turkey’.

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  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    re. “But as we’ve pointed out ad nauseum in the past, this remains a decision for the DUP and no one else”

    Little bit of revionism has crept in there – you (as in you and particulalry Pete) also serioulsy undeplayed, and I have to agree with your teminology here, ad nauseum, the pressure the DUP would inevitably come under and seriously overplayed the difficulty for SF being on a ‘hook’.

    We now have had American SOS telling the world that failure to sign up to the transfer (no D word for me) would impact on investment and the British SOS and the Irish Foreign Minister telling the DUP that the non-transfer (still no D word) will encourage the Republican dissers.

    The DUP are in a bit of a corner, with their electoral escape route cut off by the TUV and as is being argued over on Turgon’s thread an unlikely show of Unionist unity looking necessary to get them out of it.

  • Mason Powell

    Seasonal message to the DUP: only another 64 selling-out days before Christmas!

  • RepublicanStones

    You have to wonder, if the DUP had not made such a racket about the sanctity of the transfer of policing and justice in the first place, and been working tirelessly away to stall what seems, the inevitable, they wouldn’t perhaps have found themselves in quite such a tight spot.
    It looks like their going to have to take a big bite of a shit sandwhich they made themselves.