Clear and not so clear messages at the weekend

As the UK national media had ignored the latest Stormont kerfuffle, they were hardly likely to sit up and pay attention to the weekend convolutions from La Mon House. Ears did prick up though when dissident republicans spoke in language they could easily understand. The obvious conclusions, fair and unfair, will be drawn: the more nationalists think the DUP are screwing Sinn Fein, the more the dissidents gain in credibility. While Peter Robinson didn’t address this directly, he showed he knew that his main problem doesn’t lie with mainstream republicans.As he set devolution in continuing context, his metaphor was clear enough .“I firmly believe that our largest problems are in our rear-view mirror”. That, just to spell it out, means the abiding problem of unionist fragmentation, the TUV and on the side, the UU-Conservative alliance that is an obstacle to a unionist electoral pact. From Peter’s point of view, these are good political points and amount to a plea for wider understanding, despite the biting tone of his efforts to please the conference crowd. Yet with some subtlety, the big problem with republicans was set in the past.

“There were always going to be problems for people sharing power after years of conflict and enmity. But we were never going to be remotely credible in that undertaking while private armies were allowed to hold themselves above and beyond the law while thinking to administer their own brand of so-called community policing and restorative justice.”
“ Walking away from Stormont and powersharing would be counter to unionist interests.”

But Peter can hardly leave it at that. He has opted to take the battle to TUV knowing full well from his own record that it’s impossible to appease them. So what next? In three thoughtful pieces, even the Irish Times team weren’t sure. What has to happen before the powers are transferred? How does no speaky to Martin McGuinness make the parades issue or any other easier to solve? Gerry Kelly’s condemnation of the weekend attacks and his calls to the public to give information to the police puts the moral pressure against the DUP.

At this stage, Nigel Dodds’ talk of more efficient government and a voluntary coalition is understandably suspected as a stalling device. He might care to explain why “mandatory” coalition is the problem. It worked brilliantly to give a focus to Sinn Fein’s political strategy and to draw the DUP half into the tent rather than remaining outside, pissing in. This is precisely the wrong time to bid to change it. As an ill concealed attempt to demote Sinn Fein or take revenge on them for past gains, to avoid the Trimble trap, or just a recoil from dealing with them at all – whatever it is, it shows poor judgement of the DUP’S wider interests.

Either under the umbrella of the two (otherwise preoccupied and no doubt exasperated) Prime Ministers, or better still, meeting alone, Robinson and McGuinness need to meet urgently to begin thrashing this out. The Christmas deadline is hardly realisitic, but then we’re hardly unused to slippage.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    re. “the more nationalists think the DUP are screwing Sinn Fein, the more the dissidents gain in credibility.”

    Of course some Nationalists may think this but presumbly the majority realise that the DUP are the ones caught between what sensbile opinion British and Irish, Nationalist and Unionist want and what some of the DUP supporters and especially the ones that deserted at the Euros want. The DUP cant hide under the comfort blanket of “Unionist confidence” for much longer without appearing more and more obvious they are in a complete pickle.

    So at the weekend we had the spectacle of hardline Unionism telling its supporters it cant trust Britain with the Union which is true but will always bring a wry smile to the chops of Nationaists and if so they need to get and cut a deal or perhaps after the next Stormo elections it will be time that Nationalists started to look at voluntary coalition which should be available to those parties that accept the GFA/STA with the UUP*/SF/SDLP/Alliance and those that dont (DUP perhaps and the TUV if they win any Stormo seats) in opposition.

    *Presuming Wee Reggie has the political balls for it.

  • igor

    So what is the alternative Brian? That Republicans in Government extract concessions on the backs of bad Republicans outside Government? Then what disincentive is there for bad Republicans? Or Loyalists?

  • Brian Walker

    Alternative to what, igor? No alternative to powersharing I say, that doesn’t increase dissatisfaction all round, afer a moment of euphoria from diehards.

  • Panic, These Ones Likes It Up Em.

    As time progress’s let us the human race also progress.

    Applicable to all practiced by who ?

  • igor

    No my point was simply this. Real politics wont work while either side has to continually look over each other’s shoulder to see whatever the next set of gunmen coming up is threatening.

    We need to reach settlements ion a number of issues that are difficult on both sides….and those difficulties are increased if themuns are seen to have a commonality of interest with those still involved in violence.

    And I think that applies on both sides though, at the moment its more of an imemdiate problem with the dissidents as the prods are just too busy with drug dealing and crime – hell, you cant do everything at once.

  • igor

    Sammy

    ” they are in a complete pickle ”

    Isn’t the problem that, if the pickle is genuine (ie the TUVs have real support) then we are all in the pickle not just the DUP?

  • Guest

    Yes Igor,
    you’re spot on.The Assembly itself would be in a pickle.We’ll know soon enough.the only solution then would be joint direct rule.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    igor,

    re. “Isn’t the problem that, if the pickle is genuine (ie the TUVs have real support) then we are all in the pickle not just the DUP?”

    No. The DUP have got got to take the least worst option for themselves, which is to sign up to the Police transfer and face down the TUV by trying to make Stormo work rather than jibber-jabbering on about smashing SF.

    I suspect they have already decided this and need to offer their supporters another ‘victory’ over SF by delaying matters until after Christmas. Well so be it, Robbo should be afforded a little more space to make the decision all sensible opinion requires. But let the de-pickling commence as soon as possible.

    If the DUP dont want to play their part then after the next set of Stormo elections they should assume opposition after the leigislation is amended to oxter-oot anti-agreement parties.

  • igor

    Sammy

    You are ignoring the point. Why do they ‘have’ to? In reality, they don’t. It may even be irrational for them to do so in the current state of politics

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    igor,

    Have you not been listening to what the DUP themselves have been saying?

    If they dont do what all sensible opinion expects, and most importantly the 3 main power brokers, UK, Irish and US governments want then Stormo will be collpased either by the deterioriation in relations or by SF as they have warned.

    After a collapsed Stormo they will take a bit of a pasting from the TUV in any elections and possibly lose a few ministers if not the First Ministers position to Sinn Fein. If Stormo cant be put together again because a weakened DUP are by then in full retreat from the TUV then according to themselves they cant trust the British governent with the Union.

    Not easy for them but on balance probably best for them to get on with what they should be doing.

  • igor

    Sammy

    By then there will be a (from their standpoint) slightly more reliable Conservative Government. And in any case the issue of instability cuts two ways. While the prods wont blow up London the British and Irish Government cant afford them to be offside for too long.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    igor,

    I agree with that.