How can Shaun Woodward speak of possible success being just around the corner?

Shaun Woodward who is coming back to Northern Ireland later today wants an urgent meeting with Peter Robinson. Officials in the Northern Ireland Office are in touch with sources close to Mr Robinson to try to arrange a meeting. A spokesman for Peter Robinson has said his boss is remaining at home this week attending to family matters.

The government is in a race against time to try and establish if the DUP leader has any intention of convincing Martin McGuinness of his bona fides on the return of policing and justice powers.This Saturday Sinn Fein is holding an Ard-chomhairle meeting to take an attitude towards the merits or demerits of being in an administration with the DUP.

The deputy First Minister has spelled out that the institutions of the Assembly are not “sustainable” in the absence of a date for movement on policing and justice.

The Robinsons’ personal problems will be factored into any Sinn Fein evaluation, conditional on this matter being handled in a mature and professional manner by Peter Robinson, according to an enlightened Republican source. Shaun Woodward is fooling nobody as of now in saying “success is within grasp” on the issue of policing and justice.

The principals involved, Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson hadn’t spoken for weeks up to twenty four hours ago. In the meantime Iris Robinson has left the stage. It is reported that it is virtually impossible right now to reach the First Minister on his phone.

Against this political inertia how can Shaun Woodward speak of possible success being just around the corner? Journalists at Parliaments are being habitually asked by very senior DUP members who are all at sea, to second guess what exactly is going on in their own ranks.

Contributors on websites are starting to put some pointed questions about the entire political edifice. A very different atmosphere is now obtaining in Parliament Buildings with so much uncertainty over the very existence of the place.

One insider said: “We don’t know what to be doing. Should we be examining plan B?”

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  • Rory Carr

    With the First Minister hors de combat, for whatever reason, presumably the Deputy First Minister now has the sole prime responsibility for running Northern Ireland and that the Cabinet answer to him.

    I realise that the above is crass but it is the extremely bizarre nature of the First Minister’s disappearance into purdah that prompts such musings. An irresponsible press would have an excellent opportunity for a juicy headline like:

    “Robinson Hands Over Power To IRA!”

    So we must be thankful that we have such a responsible press. Mustn’t we?

  • Mick Fealty

    What irresponsible press would that be Rory? As for the rest, for once, we seem to be reading off precisely the same page.

    Missing in action is not a good message. Not least the amount of sub rosa speculation his absence is giving rise to.

    And I can confirm the puzzlement Eamonn reports within the DUP. Though I would add that, yesterday at least, it was puzzlement rather than panic.

    Now he has the Shinners saying, “we’ll make it better, if you make Saturday easier for us”… If it’s a BBC story, I am not sure how they could do that, other than offer the FM some fireproofing.

    Whichever way you look at it, it is a thoroughly bizarre turn of events…

  • Battler

    Sorry if I am being indelicate but is there something that is being left very much unsaid about the FM’s absence? Are things a lot worse at home than has been suggested, or is there something else at play? Genuine sympathies for any personal trauma but the vacuum of information, or the agreement to put such into the public domain, can only erode goodwill and empathy at a wider level. We have all experienced times when our domestic presence is imperative, but we still let the office etc know what/where we are at…

  • Eleanor Bull

    “What irresponsible press would that be Rory?”

    Let’s begin with the BBC’s own ‘Talkback’ programme, Mick, a place where, truly, ‘Moron shall speak unto moron’

    Frankie from Andersonstown…East Belfast Protestant Lady…stand up and take a bow.

    Roll on lunchtime, and an irresponsible Talkback editorial team will do as they have done for years, feed and sectarianise trivialities, to the extent where I believe David Dunseith almost single-handedly sowed division for nigh on two decades.

    And it is ‘Talkback’ that will feed the hopes and fears of the great unwashed, possibly more than any other news outlet in NI, and give airtime to the rent-a-gobs and talking heads where they can speculate, wildly, on Robbo being MIA and SF’s forthcoming Wine and Middle-Aged Spread do on Saturday.

  • Comrade Stalin

    This does not smell like some kind of elaborate political stunt. There are obviously severe family problems in the Robinson household. It’s only fair that he has the space and time to deal with these problems.

    I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to talk about DUP leadership speculation or not, but if Robinson were to resign as leader I’m not sure how the cards would fall. Dodds has indicated he intends to leave the Assembly. Some say that wee Jeffrey can’t be leader, being ex-UUP, and I guess that excludes Arlene as well. Sammy Wilson I have a lot of respect for, but I can’t imagine him as a person with leadership ambitions. I doubt McCrea wants to go there either. So who does that leave ?

  • Rory Carr

    Bizarre indeed, which is why I shy away from speculation (something that others might usefully copy on the Gerry Adams story), the final outcome may well prove to be beyond our wildest imaginings or it may yet all turn out to be a storm in a skinny mocha latte. (The last just to show how hip I am).

  • danielmoran

    Eamon Maillie Woodward always talks in cliches, I’ve noticed, so it’s pointless interviewing him. When in an interview, he avoids rash statements back claiming the situation wouldn’t arise anyway, a classic politician’s ‘get out’ from committing to a view.

  • Ulick

    Are we seriously being ask to believe that everything grinds to a halt because one man has a few family problems? What sort of operation are the DUP running – any of the rest of us would be hauled in by personnel and told to delegate. Seems to me this is either another example of the Swish Family Robinson’s arrogance or he’s being deliberately hung out to dry by the dity dozen.

  • danielmoran

    Comrade Stalin. I know a man who would step up for this, One Gregory Campbell, but others in the DUP would be aghast at the idea, since they know he’s a self publicist of the highest order, and alienates nationalists like no other. I know that should, by received wisdom, make him a strong candidate, but he’s not well liked in the party,so I don’t think DUP top brass would relish that really. Hard to say who after that.

  • danielmoran

    MSG 4 Eleanor Bull. I have contributed on the message board of talkback myself, but as far as i know, the presenters [especially DD never take any of the message board ‘usual suspects’ live on air, or even read out contributions from there.
    They get people to send by phone their comments, or emails. I’ve never heard names familiar from the Talkback MB mentioned on air.

  • On a technical point, when is Robinson due back from holidays? Perhaps when everybody is fully back at work the personal tragedies befalling the Adams, Robinison and Lenihan families wont seem so compelling.

    And anyway what could Robinson possibly have to say to Mc Guinness that he has not already told him? Martin will just have to wait and perhaps throw the meeting on Saturday another bone in the shape of yet another deadline.

  • If it Robinson is so hard to reach, did Owen Patterson doorstep him?

  • tacapall

    Distraction has always been the name of the game here, take your eye off the ball and something groundbreaking happens on the other side of the pitch, choreographed in such a way that it seems groundbreaking. Is it a coinsatance that the Adams and Robinson familys have publicly addressed their personal problems. Maybe Mr Woodward knows things the rest of us dont know.

  • Presumably any potential Panorama programme would attract injunctions. The legal eagles will no doubt be busy.

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s Spotlight, not as I previously said, Panorama. Which scales the size of the problem down somewhat from previous speculation. And there’s no sign of an injunction either.

  • Eleanor Bull


    I wasn’t referring to the Talkback forum, but the programme itself as pretty much having elongated the troubles by about 20 years due to an editorial policy that seems to thrive on sowing division and sectarianising issues that, in any sane world, would be confined to the ‘and finally’ files.

    I used to be a contributor to that forum myself, until my account was hacked and the BBC did sweet FA about it…other than ban me. Still waiting for responses to my emails to them, five years on, BTW. The forum was and probably remains a zoo. But by comparison to the programme itself the forum is a paragon of restraint.

    Really…how long and how often have they covered the moronic painting of letter boxes green? A week? Come on…it was worth about two minutes, once, rather than MLAs lining up to express ‘outrage’ and ‘anger’ or defend the action.

    That, in microcosm, is the Talkbak editorial policy. Whip up storms in teacups.

    I assume, shortly, we will be hearing from some puffed-up, full of his own piss and self-importance loyalist muppet blowing the UDA’s decision to decommission (yeah, right!) and then the usual blowhards lining up to either support it or decry it as something that should have been done years ago.

    Predictable? Sectarian in its own editorial decisions? I think so.

  • Mick Fealty

    It also ought to be noted that the only pressing business this week is SF’s AC… even the programme is not due for broadcast for another fortnight… There is no reason for Robo to be at Stormont…

    As TD says, if Peter is so hard to get in touch with, how come Paterson had no problem getting access? Or what, as MU says, would Martin and Peter really have to talk about, other than mutual commiseration on both having a pretty tough life just now…

  • Ulick

    Sounds like you are spinning for the DUP now Mick or did I just imagine the talk of Brown flying over and Woodward looking a meeting. Senior members of Robinson’s party don’t even know where he is or when he will be back – all this against a background of the imminent collapse of the Assembly. Yeah, “There is no reason for Robo to be at Stormont”, pull the other one, it’s got Sammy Wilson on the end.

  • Mick Fealty


    Call it coming to end of one too many dead ends… When we see the whites of this story’s eyes don’t expect anyone on Slugger to pull their punches.

    But that may not be for a fortnight yet.

    I’m just not sure how the corpus at Stormont are going to get through another week of the kind of creative story telling that’s going on at the moment…

  • danielmoran

    MSG 16 Eleanor Bull. Sorry about that Eleanor. The programme itself; I only got back living here in ’97 and i believe TB had been on since 1987. I remember wondering what had happened to Dunseith since I had remembered him on UTV Reports in the mid seventies. [Don’t know if you’re old enough to recall that]. I’ve only rarely listened to TB since, and only got onto the Forum since before Christmas just passed[Posting under this name there too]. Depressing programme alright.

  • Alias

    I don’t think we’re quite seeing Hitler hidden away and dissembling in his bunker in the final days of the war, but the longing is always there among megalomaniac northerners to hype up their mundane ‘drama’ to something approaching historic, international or – at the very least – intergovernmental importance.

    Can folks not function for a week without their Nannystate leaders emerging from their seasonal break to reassure them that all is well with their “historic” settlement, and that it doesn’t seem – yet again – to be disappearing beneath the “sleech” that it is built upon?

    The only real crisis hear is that the Shinners run the risk of having their little bottoms smacked if the motion passed by the Ard Fheis under false pretences is returned to the Ard Fheis for a progress update. However, it is merely the Ard-chomhairle – the ones who told the whoppers to the Ard Fheis – who are to consider their progress thus far.

    As for Mr Robinson, he should take as much time as his contract allows him to take to look after the only thing that should be on preeminent importance in his life – the wellbeing of his immediate family.

    I see no reason for him to put the Shinners self-created difficulties before that, even if the British state is trying to put pressure on him to untangle the strings of puppets after those puppets have emitted a sequence of high pitch distress calls to their puppet masters in the British state.

  • joeCanuck

    From another thread:

    One story in the public domaim
    Posted by Paul McMahon on Jan 06, 2010 @ 10:59 AM