‘Do you do it all at once or do you do in bite size chunks given the leverage we have?’

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Shaun Woodward has told local church and civic leaders to bring this message to politicians in Parliament Buildings: “Get on and seal the deal.” He clearly has the DUP in mind as that part continues to block the devolution of policing and justice. Already Peter Robinson and his colleagues have made the abolition of the Parades Commission and the retention of the Full Time police reserve as two preconditions for allowing the devolution of policing and justice to go ahead. Mr Woodward told his guests at Hillsborough Castle: “The danger is this could go wrong. Get in there and say to the politicians to get in and finish it now.”

The DUP however appear to be playing a bloody game. One insider said:
“If sustainability of devolution is the object then there has to be major changes to the workings of the institutions – an end to sectarian designation – enforced coalition and the creation of a working democracy not based on a mutual veto.

“The tactical question is ‘Do you do it all at once or do you do in bite size chunks given the leverage we have?’ That is the debate that is taking place. The source added: “This place is in free fall. It would not pass any test in any other legislature in terms of delivery on the ground.

” The lack of corporate ownership or collectivity, collective responsibility doesn’t exist. What you get is competing party fiefdoms instead of collective government.”

In the event of either the DUP or Sinn bringing the Assembly down the DUP source said: “If there are elections it will not be to an Assembly but an election to negotiations. If this place perishes on the rock of policing and justice why would you go back into government?”

What would happen if Sinn Fein emerged as the largest party in any election ?

“Peter Robinson would not serve as deputy first minister and neither would any other Unionist” said the DUP insider.

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  • Panic, These Ones Likes It Up Them.

    Are Unionists the Hare or the Hound on this course.

    Only time will tell. Time and intransigence are against Unionists me thinks.

  • Turgon

    If the DUP follow through with this then Robinson may actually strengthen his position within unionism. Furthermore by accepting that the next set of elections may well be elections to negotiations Robinson could and probably would be the leader of unionism within those negotiations even if SF are the largest party. This is a scenario I suggested here.

  • Dave

    ”The lack of corporate ownership or collectivity, collective responsibility doesn’t exist. What you get is competing party fiefdoms instead of collective government.”

    Very true, and why two nations cannot share one state. The problem is that he is arguing for a one-nation state in a state that is actually spilt more or less evenly between two nations. At some point, there folks are going to have to acknowledge their own logic (instead of disguising it) and follow it all the way to repartition.

  • Panic, These Ones Likes It Up Them.

    Push come to shove Would Unionists go for repartition before a federal Ireland with major ties to Britain for the Northern Federation.

    I beleive that neither side are willing to contemplate abandoning their brethern on the “wrong” side of repartition.

    And I would admire both sides for this stance.

  • Eamonn’s post might well fit with the alleged fallback plan to mothball Stormont and to hold elections to the current 26 councils in May 2010.

  • Nah, these sort of squabbles have to happen in order to establish the respective vetoes of the parties. If you’ve ever seen the Belgian system in operation, and considered the sorts of arguments that went on in Belgium in the mid C20th, it all becomes nicely apparent.

    But, of course, it doesn’t lead to excellent government. Seems neither vetoing party wants excellent government.

  • Driftwood

    Direct rule from Westminster was and is always going to be the least worst option. The incoming Tory administration should make clear this is going to be the case for the forseeable future (20 years)and the taxpayer can breathe a bit easier as the bloated bureaucracy at Stormont is dismissed for good.

  • fair_deal

    Driftwood

    “the taxpayer can breathe a bit easier as the bloated bureaucracy at Stormont is dismissed for good.”

    It was direct rule that created the bloated bureaucracy including successive Tory governments.

  • Panic, These Ones Likes It Up Them.

    Is nationalism/republicanism willing to accept direct rule from Britain ?

    The Genie may be out of the bottle on that one.

    Does Westminister want to direct rule NI ?

    Would you if you were them ?

    Who ever forms the next british goverment will be a bit busy to worry about NI.

    If NIs politicians were clever they would extract as much fiscal spending from the British goverment as they can for being good boys and girls and promising as little bad news as possible from the irritating state (to british goverments and United kingdom people)

    To westminister goverments and the United Kingdom people “No news is good news” from NI.

    The trick for NIs politicians is how much money they can extract for this “No News”

  • Driftwood

    If that was the case fair deal, and you probably have more insight, why didn’t the devolved administration roll back this duplication. Isn’t it likely that people will look more favourably on ‘government’ that rules by efficiency rather than featherbedding.

    Evidence that the administrative costs of running NI were much higher under Thatcher than present day would add much to your assertation though.

  • Ulick

    They’re playing you Eamonn. Unionism is a busted docket and the DUP know it. As each year goes by their hand grows weaker so much so they’ll probably lose their overal majority within the life of the next Assembly. Elections to negotiations my ass. Let’s see how long they last on no pay, their mandate dwindling and the spectre of Plan B looming.

  • Driftwood

    If NIs politicians were clever they would extract as much fiscal spending from the British goverment as they can for being good boys and girls ………

    The dependency culture/mindset writ large.

    Nothing clever about economic blackmail. It has poor long term consequences. Maybe some NI politicians think we have squeezed the mainland taxpayer too much already. If not, they should have. Being part of the UK is about more than begging.

  • Eamonn Mallie

    Drift,

    Go and read Richard Needham’s book if you doubt what FD has to say. One of the things we’re thinking about adding is a little flag that allows other readers to flag a post as requiring ‘more evidence’. Fighting each other through assertion is tedious for the rest of us.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    So far the DUP have got some extra money – and well done to Robbo for that – he is part of a long Irish tradition of squeezing money out of overseas governments.

    The ‘insider’ is obviously in a bit of a muddle as is the DUP – surely it is a bit late to still not have worked out your strategy and even more so judging by yesterday’s comical turn of events.

    http://www.tuv.org.uk/press-releases/view/396/dup-credibility-in-freefall

    Turgon,

    as the resident military historian on site, what battle do you think is a reasonable parallell for the DUP decision to cede to Nationalism the right to the first minister’s position when they were apparently in quite a strong position during the STA negotiations.

  • fair_deal

    Driftwood

    Public bodies expanded massively after the removal of Stormont. One thing the old Stormont wasn’t was profligate. Public employment expansion was a tool to try to control unemployment levels and about getting more Catholics into the workforce during a period that the private sector was performing unsurprisingly poorly.

    The reason it hasn’t changed is – the decision by the UUP and SDLP to create ministries that weren’t needed (and have proven difficult to abolish ever since), in the 00’s the significant increases in public expenditure that people voted for in the UK elections led to further expansion with no one worrying about the sustainability of it all, the problems with the operating of mandatory coalition – it is a bad system that produces dysfunctional government.

    Leaving aside the local politics there is also the inherent contradiction of public sentiment – want more spent but less taxes or agreeing with cuts in principle but then complaining about the actual cuts. Just look at the amount of squealing about health even though it already receives half the public budget.

    I am trying to remember the name of the book that had an interesting analysis of Conservative policy in Northern Ireland in the 1980’s. One particular phrase stuck with me about how NI policy in a UK context was “an island of Keynesianism in a sea of Thatcherism”.

  • Driftwood

    That last sentence makes sense FD, and squares the circle for me. Thatchers policy of ‘rolling back the state’ didn’t fit. And while I agree about the UU/SDLP creating an overabundance of silly departments and ministers, surely this was funded on Labour’s profligate watch?

    However the DUP have been mentioning that there is a huge duplication of public jobs and civil service waste without actually proposing cuts. The NICS is the biggest waste of money by far, and the RPA is in their hands? Turkeys and Christmas?

  • percy

    previously when these tense stand-offs / potential crises occured,
    the Brit Gov’t would whisk all the parties off to a stately Castle for a sweat session:

    a list of conference castles in the UK.
    http://www.castles-of-britain.com/castletj.htm

  • fair_deal

    Driftwood

    “surely this was funded on Labour’s profligate watch?”

    Yes it was but remember the block grant was there’s to play with as they saw fit and a couple hundred million spent on infrastructure 8-10 years ago would be giving us a lower bill now.

    “However the DUP have been mentioning that there is a huge duplication of public jobs and civil service waste without actually proposing cuts.”

    They have produced proposals for cuts – reduction in departments, reduction in MLAs amalgamation of a number of publci bodies etc – it was in the midst of the expenses stuff so you may have missed them.

    The DUP did also back 11 councils while the UUP wanted 15. There is also the review of government started under St Andrews that is still to report.

    “The NICS is the biggest waste of money by far, and the RPA is in their hands? Turkeys and Christmas?”

    This is indeed a problem. Perhaps the answer is too find the malcontents who have been passed over for promotion and are about to retire they’ll tell you the truth 😉

  • percy

    On thread re leverage:
    Gerry Kelly’s line that “Unionists are not learning the lessons” is perhaps the best attack for nationalists.

    DUP attempts to unpick the GFA and return to unionist majority rule, are a reflection of their inability to grasp that the GFA was always a compromise for nationalist; and sharing power was and is the solution to competing claims of territorial sovreignty.

  • Border Prod

    Itwas Sammy,

    Did you notice the latest TUV press release? http://www.tuv.org.uk/press-releases/view/398/tuv-challenges-dup-to-come-clean

    Looks like Slugger might be back in the TUV’s good books 🙂

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    percy,

    re. Castles.

    with the moat-men in power such political outings could be a nice little earner for quite a few castle owning Tory MPs struggling under the new expenses regime.

    El Gordo should call all party talks in Stormo. It is just his luck that the British (and Irish press) are not even remotely interested in the proceeding in Norn Iron, given that he has played such a consistently good hand. Even the mad-dog-Tory-right-wingers in the ToryGraph have stopped jabbering on about the GFA being a sell out to the insurgents.

  • percy

    sammy,
    I know, however the rascals tend to do better outside the heat of the kitchen…

    Still for the DUP:
    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

    For TUV:
    You can introduce a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Border Prod,

    Jimbo is probably the most able Unionist politican and he had the most votes on Slugger’s politican of the year (including my own) when I last looked.

    He is also providing an important (Irish) National service by splitting the Unionist vote into three nice ‘bite size chunks’.

  • couldn’t comment – shouldn’t

    FD and with the collapse of the Assembly – mainly due to the inepitude of the DUP – the 15 council model based onthe parliamentary constituencies may still be the best option. The 11 model has no basis other than its a compromise between 7 and 15.

    Again the outcome of DUP inepitude

  • Percy, I thought the ‘cute hoor’ domain was for FFers 😉

  • fair_deal

    couldn’t

    SF over-selling P&J was their ineptitude not the DUP’s. If SF really want it delivered quickly then the DUP is telling what is needed for it to happen. If they say no now they’ll just end up saying yes to most of the same things to put it all back up again.

    “The 11 model has no basis other than its a compromise between 7 and 15.”

    It has the basis of the existing council areas and was one of the nine options produced by the RPA. No ineptitude involved.

  • couldn’t comment – shouldn’t

    So FD you wish to make a virtue of the RPA proposals, a process the DUP singularly failed to engage with, in their inepitude and cowardice a process they failed to make one substantive submission to and a process they failed to give an opinion on the crucial question of how many councils.

    As for existing councils that’s irrelevant, everyone knows the current boundaries are ridiculous – Moyle – Banbridge – Belfast – Carigavon not one ounce of consistancy!

    As for SF overselling P&J – to many unionists, myself included, devolution ala 1998 underpinned the Union. Getting SF to sign up was a master stroke of republicans administering British rule in Ireland. The DUP were very latecomers to this view and at St Andrews bollocked the process up so that no one could administer NI – mutual vetoes etc.

    Now SF are keen to collapse the Assembly become first minister and then watch as the DUP implodes due to their crass power grab at any price in St Andrews.

    All along SF needed the DUP to bollock the whole thing up and they haven’t had to wait too long – it was always coming.

    The DUP a party of opposition – crap at Government

  • Panic, These Ones Likes It Up Them.

    Percy said

    “For TUV:
    You can introduce a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think.”

    Personally I believe that it is a bit presumptuos to caste aspersions that a whore may not be appreciative of culture.

    How dare you !

  • Harry

    The DUP continue to surprise me. So Peter Robinson is happy to be First Minister but he nor any other Democratic Unionist would serve as Deputy?

    Doesn’t that just confirm a few things about DUP:

    1. The DUP amended the choice of FM and DFM in St Andrews for their own personal electoral gain. By using the threat that there was a possibility Sinn Fein may come up as the largest party and therefore have the First Ministerialship, they were somewhat trying to coerce unionists to come out and vote for them and thus put the final nail in the UUP coffin.

    2. It shows that the DUP think they are above others. It is a “unionist right” that a unionist serves as First Minister, according to the DUP. Well, Im afraid Mr Robinson, there is no god-given right. Sinn Fein, if they are the largest party have the right to become First Minister, and a true devolutionist party, who agreed to and negotiated in the St Andrews Agreement should respect the rules that they indeed agreed to and supported! You can’t have it 2 ways Mr Robinson, if you can be First Minister, then devolution is good and beneficial for the people of Northern Ireland, but if you have to serve as Deputy FM, which in all fairness, has exactly the same powers as FM, then devolution is not right nor beneficial.

    3. It shows the DUP were only after power! 30 years of saying “Never”, the DUP only said yes when they become the biggest party in the country. And if they lose that position in the next election, then they will go back to saying “no”. If that’s not power-hungry then I don’t know what is!

    Whilst not a TUV supporter, I can see why unionists are abondoning the DUP. A distrustful, power-hungry party like the DUP – who would vote for them! I just hope UCUNF are able to take advantage of this DUP-TUV split at the next Westminster elections and the DUP realise they are “no longer the party speaking for unionism”