Woodward returns to Blair’s ‘process is the policy” line…

Just heard Shawn Woodward on the Today programme this morning returning to tough talk on the peace process. As a Minister, Slugger understands he is already treating his Tory opposite number, Owen Paterson, as his inevitable successor… For all the tough talk (unless you’re planning to cross back over Shawn ;-)), it won’t be his call as to what happens. Despite the destructive dynamic at the heart of the P&J debacle we have learned one thing: there is nothing HMG nor the Republic governments can do to put a deal back together if the local parties don’t want it. The near fatal attack on a GAA Catholic policemen with a Republican background was clearly a message being sent directly to Stormont. But is the answer evenmore top down pressure when there is little evidence that the bottom up dynamic is working? Whatever happens “process as the policy” is as dead as Tony Blair’s administration. And the ‘poisoned Belgium’ model of the GFA has visibly failed…

  • Chris Donnelly

    And the ‘poisoned Belgium’ model of the GFA has visibly failed…


    Actually this is hard to sustain.

    Think of Churchill’s famed reference to democracy as being the worst option- barring all others- and you begin to appreciate how most people view the existing institutions.

    If Robinsongate hastens the demise of Devolution Mark II, I’d imagine the governments- and most people- will be at least content that there is no serious threat of a return to long-term political instability characterised by sustained violent campaigns- though naturally that’ll be scant consolation for the deceased victims of violence in Antrim and Coleraine last year, nor the family of the Randalstown PSNI officer criticually injured yesterday.

    In reality, the parameters of any return to devolution are set in stone (as evidenced by the DUP’s acceptance of the St Andrew’s Agreement.)

    A willingess to work in partnership is the key to long-term stability in a society as deeply divided as ours.

  • “And the ‘poisoned Belgium’ model of the GFA has visibly failed…”

    So what happens to the leaders of the YES campaign now? Who imagined that ‘constructive ambiguity’ could be anything other than destructive?

    Are Catholic officers the only officers being attacked in the current militant republican campaign? I understand that quite a few students aren’t completing their training courses whilst others are resigning whilst only a short way into their careers. The mental pressures on all officers and their families must be severe but especially on those who might be considered most at risk of attack.

    The PSNI appears to have introduced a new gambit in its presentation of manpower statistics ie leave out the Patten Established figures in the hope that website viewers won’t notice the current significant deficit of constables or the inclusion of students in the total of full time officers.

    I’m also told that a senior PSNI officer claimed that the PSNI figures were wrong when confronted with the shortfalls highlighted in the published statistics. Might there be a connection between the claim and the new gambit?

  • “the parameters of any return to devolution are set in stone”

    I thought it was these parameters which have more or less caused the political process to grind to a halt.

  • Chris Donnelly


    Not at all; the political process requires a willingness to engage in a partnership approach to work, and after time a degree of trust between governing parties will emerge.

    What alternative arrangements are ‘out there’ which have worked in the past, or are likely to garner sufficent confidence to do so in the future?

  • If recent history is anything to go by Unionism will be yet again cajoled into agreement with Nationalism under ther terms of the “poisoned Belgium model of the GFA” by the simple device of threatening Unionism with a greater say for the South and the introduction of measures in Northern Ireland such as an ILA if Unionism doesnt sign up.

    Of course we may get a Unionist friendly Tory government but if not there will surely be an immediate rupturing of the then useless tieup betwen the UUP and the Tories and the emergence of a United Unionism.

  • Chris, there is no basis for partnership; the 50%+1 scenario put the kybosh on that. How can we have trust in a process that incorporates our version of the Mafia?

    I think devolution under shared sovereignty plus the merger of strands 2 and 3 is a better arrangement than the 1998 Agreement, an agreement that was bought into but for opposing reasons. Partnership requires shared goals and I feel my proposal best meets that criterion. It also reinforces our commonality rather than exploiting our differences.

  • In Belgium currently the federal government has no Flemish majority , in other words the Flemish parties who make up the government (CD&V and Open VLD) do not have over 50% of the seats allocated to Flemish representatives in the Kamer/Chambre. Furthermore, the largest fraction in the Kamer/Chambre is the liberal fraction consisting of MR and Open VLD however the Prime Minister is Yves “Marseillaise” Leterme who like his predecessor Herman van Rompuy (whom I had actually heard of!) is CD&V. Belgium has had its scandals, notably the FORTIS affair that forced Leterme to resign in his first spell as Premier. There exists a lot of hysteria from people abroad that Belgium is about to break up but I would give two thoughts on that. Firstly, the people are actually more “unionist” if one can apply that term to the Belgian context than the politicians as research undertaken by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven has shown (the Flemish equivalent of the university I attended last year thanks to UCL’s link with Queen’s) and secondly I think the Belgians as a nation realise that they are better together than apart. People call Belgium an accident of history but the Flemish did choose to stay with the Francophones and not be part of the Netherlands, although one can say that the reason (Catholicism) is a lot less relevant now.

    I think the same will happen in Northern Ireland. The alternatives to devolution are much worse and we do have an election on the horizon. I don’t believe the admittedly flawed system should fall because of incompetent people at the top. Maybe that’s a naive and optimistic view, we shall see.