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.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London