Behind the smoke screen, any sign of progress?

Peter Robinson laments the fact his biggest single frustration is about Sinn Fein taking off the table a draft plan for “cohesion, sharing and integration.” It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that all Peter is doing is trying to divert attention away from DUP disarray over justice and policing and towards the DUP’s cross community efforts. All the same, it’s worth taking his remarks at face value for a moment. Sinn Fein’s plans can be criticised for resting on rights and equality issues they know are in deadlock – a Bill of Rights, language rights, separate but equal. The DUP is slated for ducking sectarianism; and Alliance claims the high ground by pointing to the increased costs of separate provision during a recession. A shared future can be written off as a theme that produces hours of platitudinous rhetoric and acres of dead trees. But it’s really about tackling the basic problems. From those in the know – could it be that crab-like, the parties may be getting there slowly over this and policing and justice? The passage of J &P legislation albeit without an implementation date suggests that the parties are willing to isolate the deadlock to the point of final decision.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    re. “draft plan for “cohesion, sharing and integration.”

    Surely the best way to deal with this is to take it an issue at a time – pocket the easy gains where there is cross party agreement(there must be some issues perhaps integrated education?) before moving on to more contentious areas.

    This would demonstrate there there is a willingness to get things done and show that the parties can reach agreement on some issues and let everybody see clearly where each party stands.

    But, and it is a big BUT, trying to take Robbo’s words at face value (leaving aside his current political diffiluties over police) when his party’s election slogan was smash Sinn Fein suggests that at least until the next election it is not in his party’s interest(and particulalry so with Jimbo breathing down his neck) to actaully reach agreement.

  • Seymour Major

    I think Sammy has put his finger on one aspect of the problem. The paradox of the DUP telling their supporters that they are “smashing Sinn Fein” and then reaching agreement with them as necessary, makes Peter Robinson look like a sort of Jeckle and Hyde in Government.

    What is particularly unpalatable about Robinson is his appalling arrogance. He bemoans the fact that his advisors have spent 18 months putting puttting together proposals which SF does not agree with, as if he has some divine right to expect SF to agree just because he thinks he is right.

    Instead of whinging about the fact that SF does not agree to his side’s proposals, he should explain, in a mature manner, why Sinn Fein’s counter-proposals are flawed, if he thinks that. Otherwise, he and his team should just knuckle down and continue to negotiate. That’s their job. If he doesn’t like that, he should resign.

    “could it be that crab-like, the parties may be getting there slowly over this and policing and justice?”

    Perhaps we will see substantive progress on P & J soon. As to other matters, I dont think so.

  • slug

    A lot more integrated education would be good.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Two words just about sum up why nobody should take Robinson’s claims as anything other than a poor attempt at spinning out of the unfolding crises for the DUP:

    Community Confidence.

    If Robinson was genuinely interested in promoting a future where all were equal then surely the ‘community,’ which he never tires of reminding us requires ‘confidence’, would not be restricted exclusively to the PUL community, which it undoubtedly is.

    Hence the reason ‘confidence’ translates as more Orange parades in catholic areas and more guns and jobs for the old, sectarian RUC guard.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    slug,

    do you not think that rather than trying to agree everything they should try to get agreement on some easier things first.

    A benefit of that approach would be for instance in relation to integrated education if any party or parties dont want that sector expanded significantly then I think we would get to see that and that might flush out a few unsavoury policies lurking in the undergrowth which might not survive the glare of publicity.

    Seynmour Major,

    in relation to the DUP do you not think that the current impasse presents an opportunity to the UUP to adopt a stronger pro-agreement position as the DUP seems to be taking an increasingly anti-agreement position. The UUP are (as best as we can work out) still trotting out the appalingly self-serving line that Police should not be transferred because of the difficulties in Education – this is actually a more anti-agreement position than the DUP are currently being criticsed for.

    p.s. Slug – was it you who shied away on my last offer of a bet on the Police Transfer?

  • slug

    Hi Sammy

    Regarding the “nothing is agreed till everything is agreed” versus making progress where we can, generally I favour the latter, though sometimes its easier to get agreement on difficult issues if the former is adopted. But I can’t say I really care I just would like more integration to make society more normal 🙂

    As for the bet can you remind me of its terms?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    slug,

    my very ‘generous’ terms a tenner – I say that the DUP will agree a date for the transfer of Police before the Westminsters though the date itself may be after the elections.

  • joeCanuck

    It seems to be the case, from both parties, that:

    Anything you can do, I can do worser,
    I can do anything worser than you.

    No pedants please.

  • slug

    ItWasSammy that is quite specific and yes that rings a bell. You mean I give you £10 if that does not materialise and vice versa. I actually would (in principle) take a flutter in that I think the chance of that is less than 50%. But my ear is not to the ground. Maybe yours isn’ either – remember your last bet offer of actual power transfer by Xmas 2008? 🙂

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    slug,

    I am betting the DUP will agree a date – if they do agree you lose and have to give a tenner to Slugger tip jar?

    Yes or No?

  • slug

    A specific date such as End of October, untied to conditions? No. It could be however that they will go into the election with a “package” to sell involving lots of things including, a date that is conditional on a lot of other stuff happening.

    Anyway I will take up your bet assuming you mean a specific unconditional deadline not an aspirational conditional target date.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    slug,

    re. “Anyway I will take up your bet assuming you mean a specific unconditional deadline not an aspirational conditional target date. ”

    Agreed – if it completed before Westminster irrespective of condtionality then I win. If there is any doubt as to whether it is unconditional after the Westminsters we can pass to Mick F. for a decision.

  • Comrade Stalin

    my very ‘generous’ terms a tenner – I say that the DUP will agree a date for the transfer of Police before the Westminsters though the date itself may be after the elections.

    Sammy, you need to be more specific about what will happen on whatever date that turns out to be.

    I actually think the DUP are trying to delay this until after Westminster is out of the way. Couple of advantages there; one is to let the new Prime Minister take some of the credit. The other is to finish off Jim Allister, who may be stronger going into a General with agreement to devolve the powers in place.

  • OC

    Most places that I know of in the States don’t fund schools run by churches.

    Integrated schooling will only happen when NI follows this example.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    CS,

    A date (without conditions) for the full transfer of powers will be agreed before the Westminster – see post 12.

    ps slug (suspected tight Prod) seems to have done a runner.

    OC,

    They could increase the budget to the integrated sector significantly.

  • slug

    No runner, I thought I had made my acceptance and its interpretation clear in 12. I don’t regard any of this as a big deal in that I am not emotionally invested in this issue so to be wrong will simply cost me £10.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    slug,

    fair enough I will take my vices elsewhere.

  • BonarLaw

    So not by Christmas then. What will the deputy do?

  • OC

    “They could increase the budget to the integrated sector significantly.”

    Or remove all funding for non-state schools.

    Let people pay for their own children’s parochial education.

  • “Anyway I will take up your bet assuming you mean a specific unconditional deadline not an aspirational conditional target date” Yes you are right. That what I wanted to say.

  • YelloSmurf

    Back to the issue.

    Sinn Fein (and the DUP) need to put their money where there mouth is and act on the shared future agenda. It is not enough to talk about it.

    Specifically (picking an example off the top of my head) it is not good enough for SF to say that they are committed to creating an atmosphere whereby people feel safe enough for the removal of peace walls and then to jump down the throats of anyone who suggests that we need to create an atmosphere whereby people feel safe enough to remove peace walls (I will get the link later, I am currently in a library which blocks most blogs). More generally it is not enough for the old, tribal parties to say that they want to create shared space and yet to continue to demark areas as one or the other through flags or other symbols.

    How’s this for a radical proposal, remove the defense of turning down a social house because your neighbors go to a different church (or would if they went to church). If anyone is actually at threat from moving into an area because they are a certain religion then that is already covered, but if they just don’t want to mix then that should not be an accepted reason for refusing an offer.

    Enough talk, how about some action.

  • YelloSmurf

    Having just checked, I can get on the blog after all. Here’s the link I was referring to. As you’ll see, I have already challenged SF on this (in the nicest possible way).