BBC reporting progress on Policing and Justice…

Speaking to a senior journalist friend the other night, he warned me to resist the temptation to be definitive. In the fast flow of this bizarre story, I may have to put my hand up and say there are several things I’ve got wrong. Devolution of policing and justice may just be one of them. I’ll say nothing more until we see the detail of any emergent deal other than to ask what has changed between last Thursday and last night? Peter Robinson’s near death experience may have convinced him that clear blue water between him and Jim Allister may be the best way to enter the next election. But it may also be that the President of Sinn Fein is beginning to feel his own sense of mortality

With the way this tale has twisted, that figurative publisher must be pulling out what’s left of his hair… If there is a deal (and this is not another piece of speculation that we’ve been in the eye of for the last week), when it emerges it will be important to look at the detail and then ask why it could not have been done months ago, never mind last week? And if this was an extended game of political chicken, which one will have chickened first?

  • PACE Parent

    Mick,
    The UUCNF and TUV say NO on P&J. Why would the DUP now say anything different?
    Sean Woodward is simply foolish if he thinks that the timing of the transfer can be piggybacked on to the Robinson’s’ affairs and yet another attack on the police service. Unionists are hardly lining up to provide a convenient headline for the Labour Party prior to a general election are they?
    If Sinn Fein want to collapse the Assembly, as they threatened prior to Christmas, they should be made to do it without assistance from unionists.
    BTW these journalist friends of yours are envious of the influence of Slugger. The print media coverage of recent events is like reading a chip shop paper.

  • Henry94

    Mick

    when it emerges it will be important to look at the detail and then ask why it could not have been done months ago, never mind last week?

    Or even in 1973. Hasn’t every inch of progress in the process taken far more time than it should have. I suppose the ghosts of previous deal-makers haunt those who brought them down. Is it the politicians or the people are to blame?

    In my view the internal dialoge of each community goes like this

    Politicians: There will be no compromise on this issue.

    People: There better not be.

    Politicians: Don’t worry. We’d sooner see the whole process fail

    People: Dead on.

    Politicians: In fact it looks like it will fail

    People: What!?

    Politicians: We’re for walking

    People: Well let’s not be hasty. Is it really such a big issue.

    Politicians: You tell me.

    People: Ah no, it’s not really.

    Politicians: OK we have a deal

    People: What kept ye?

  • Mick Fealty

    I think we need to see the nature of the deal, if there is one. Then we’ll be in a better position to know why two blokes blokes who share an office (with one junior minister and three special advisors each) could not have done something last year.

  • Henry94

    As I recall Slugger was in the forefront of denying the need for a deal at all. It was certainly a cheerleader for delay beyond the target date. So to complain now about delay is certainly having your cake and eating it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    When the DUP were in a position to pretend/be strong then there was great difficulty in making a deal.

    Now that they are deep in the brown stuff a deal seems possible.

    There has to be caste iron guarantees with bells on it secured from the DUP or else if they buy some time they will renege on any agreement.

    It all just proves that there antipathy to the devolution of P/J was just low tactics to antagonise nationalists/republicans. None of it was based on a principle or deep felt reason.

    The Robinson debacle has unveiled much more than the shenanigans of Iris and Peter. The oportunism than gave birth to the DUP has not been set aside as that party aged. Getting old without getting smart is treading water and going nowhere.

  • Aldous Duke

    The DUP’s bullish stubbornness insisting the current political scandal will have no effect on the negotiations over policing and justice reveals a sense of deinal. DUP will suffer either way, whether in parliamentary elections or bringing down the executive should Sinn Fein hold their ground.
    The media circus, in order to keep the bandwagon going, have now switched the spotlight to the P&J issue. The DUP’s efforts to not appear weak are akin lightly covering up the cracks. By their own admission the DUP say they want the devolution of P&J however only when the people are ready for it. This shows a lack of leadership from the DUP and a catch 22 scenario. Are unionist voters looking to their elected leaders or are the DUP as they say awaiting some invisible referendum from their support? Or is this merely a fact that P&J is seen as another concession to SF whether it benefits the country or not. This is an issue of losing face to the TUV before anything else.

    They, the DUP should move while they have the authority. An election is coming with a three way split in unionism which will leave SF the largest party with a weak DUP deputy.

  • Jaggers

    Comments from both governments before Christmas and the introduction of the phrase “coming days” into their speeches in recent days when talking about the devolution agreement timeframe, coupled with Peter Robinson’s acceptance in principle of devolution with a timescale “this year” and what looks like his failure to extract any new dispensation from the shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Owen Paterson, last week along with Sinn Fein’s restraint from Yah-Boo! politics at the Robinsons’ travails (cf UCUNF and TUV) and Robinson having an eye on the Westminster elections where regardless of his personal position he would like to put clear new orange water between DUP and its close competitors, I think a devolution agreement will happen within days.

  • Jaggers

    For information and not being an expert on constitutional matters between the Assembly and Westminster, I consulted wiki to find that P&J are not the “last pieces of the jigsaw puzzle” as there are quite a few areas currently reserved to Westminster which are to be devolved along the way ahead

    * Criminal law
    * Police
    * Navigation and civil aviation
    * International trade and financial markets
    * Telecommunications/postage
    * The foreshore and sea bed
    * Disqualification from Assembly membership
    * Consumer safety
    * Intellectual property

    So this present crisis will no doubt be succeeded by other crises.

  • Mick Fealty

    Henry you are conveniently misremembering the past. I’m sure Pete will oblige later with the inconvenient detail.

  • Jaggers

    Your list of minor details would be dealt with quietly were it not for the unemployable waiting in the wings for some politically ambitious but otherwise equally unemployable ‘operative’ to load those details with semtex and fire them at the unsuspecting public.

    Mick

    I think a deal on P&J may well be in sight, not because there has been some miraculous resolution to the problem but because the two big parties have scandals to bury.

    Gerry Adams is desperate to be seen as the hero again and Peter Robinson is desperate to be seen as the political power player. For both parties there is great advantage to be gained from getting their faces on the front pages for the right reasons for once.

    And by the way I have not looked yet today, but have you see Mr Morgan?

  • Mick,

    “I may have to put my hand up and say there are several things I’ve got wrong”

    You are quite right to keep your hand in your pocket a while yet, but I think it fair to say that what has characterized many of the blogs on Slugger was the failure to realise the pressure that would be placed on the DUP by the two governments given that Unionists have seen their position repeatedly undermined (betrayed?) by successive British governments (we only have to look at Trimble and the UUP) irrespective of the strength and validity of their arguements. Equally the dislike for SF, which many of us share, seems to have led bloggers into the mistake of misreading the strength of their position, something I am quite sure the ever pragmatic Peter Robinson will not have done.

    Although, I still have some hope of a more evenhanded approach from the incoming Tory government (the early signs are not good) and what the unfolding events certainly do tell us is that Unionists need to unify in order to protect their own interests but unfortunately the introdcution of a third party in the shape of the TUV has made that significantly more difficult.

    But perhaps Robinson can still spring a mini-rabbit out of the hat and agree a deal with SF but for a date that is after the Westminster election?

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Would’nt the Tories and Unionists be much better to get the devolution of P/J out of the way now or soon.

    The Tories will have other things to deal with “if” they get an overall majority.

    If the devolution of P/J does not happen then a lot may start to unravel.

    Do realists in the Unionist community really want this to happen.

    Unionists have a good deal now if they want to make a go of it.

    If for reasons of wanting to do the other side down or internecine squabbles they let it slip where is the upside for Unionists.

  • Moderate Unionist

    Totally agree with everything you say. Trimble was betrayed by Blair, but lets face it, Blair betrayed the entire UK.

    Sinn Fein knew if they bought down Trimble they would have to deal with the DUP and now, finally, if for their own less than patriotic reasons, it looks like they may be doing just that.

    I can see no advantage to the DUP to wait until after the election. It will be hanging over them,a stick for the other Unionist parties to beat them with.

  • danielmoran

    Aldous duke msg 6. This DUP tactic of followership [ie, confession to dup base voters of deep insecurity on the party’s part, soundly based on their memory of their history since 1971.
    for the remainder of the 20th century,29 years, also rans in unionism. form 2002, main unionist party [thanks only to blunder by trimble], then since last spring unionists catch themselves on after being deceived about going in to bed with shinners. Now leader robbo in deep hits, sf threatening election, and DUP back were they started, ie also rans in unionism. Not much to show for forty years is it Big Ian?

  • iluvni

    Surely the DUP wouldnt put party before country…..not again, surely not?

  • Iluvni

    Are you kidding me!

    I will attempt to answer your question with due solemnity.

    The DUP politicians will do what all politicians do

    1 = self, 2 = self 3 = self 4 = party. Country? Not a chance.

    The diffference between DUP and other parties, of whatever colour, is that they being so pious and old testament at that, have got more to lose when they or their wives get caught.

  • ding dong

    Here’s the deal –

    the DUP are faced with no option – if they don’t deal on P&J then SF pull the plug get an election. SF become first minister and unionist refuse to serve – Paisley’s Plan B only outcome

    Alternatively DUP do a deal – lose a few MLAs and the odd MP (McCreas, Morrow, Campbell, Simpson etc) but no Assembly election so no threat to the 36 salaries.

    The Unionist vote is shredded at the general elction unless the “new progressive” DUPs try and realign quickly with UCUNF either way the Assembly continues and the DUP hopes Allister will fade away.

    Either way the DUPs are finished

  • Garza

    Iluvni

    The only thing the DUP loves is power, not the union, not God, not the people, just power.

  • Cynic2

    Mick

    You assumption that Robinson has a future role seems to me to be misplaced. Ridicule is the one thing a politician cannot stand and it seems clear that for many and varied reasons the core DUP electorate now think the Robinson brand is finished.

    Deeply unfair and unreasonable – but that’s politics.

  • Sammy Morse

    Can anyone tell me what the difference is between Reg Empey and Jim Allister.

  • Garza

    “Can anyone tell me what the difference is between Reg Empey and Jim Allister.”

    One is for progessive secular unionist politcs that supports devolution. The other doesn’t. Its not really that hard.

  • Jaggers

    Sorry Garza, which one does and which one doesn’t?

  • Chris Donnelly

    Sammy

    Precisely; kinda nails the lie of the secular, moderate, catholic-friendly appeal of the newly-polished UCUNF initiative, eh?

    Moderate Unionist has made a number of prescient observations above (well, first paragraph anyway MU!)

    The pressure is on the DUP right now as never before. They have brought this on themselves by reneging on their commitments at St Andrew’s and holding out the bogus charge of ‘community confidence’ as the sticking point.

    Two scenarios face the party: either do the deal, avoid an imminent Assembly election and face the charge of ‘betrayal’ from the UCUNF and Allister- a charge with considerable weight given the fact that, only days ago, a senior party member claimed there’d be no devolution in the lifetime of this Assembly (and, indeed, let’s not forget the Leader-in-waiting, Nigel Dodds, claiming we’d have to wait a ‘generation’ for such progress.)

    Alternatively, the party rejects the offer to deal, Stormont falls and the DUP take the blame with them to rap the doors of an already disillusioned party electorate.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Sammy

    Precisely; kinda nails the lie of the secular, moderate, catholic-friendly appeal of the newly-polished UCUNF initiative, eh?

    Moderate Unionist has made a number of prescient observations above (well, first paragraph anyway MU!)

    The pressure is on the DUP right now as never before. They have brought this on themselves by reneging on their commitments at St Andrew’s and holding out the bogus charge of ‘community confidence’ as the sticking point.

    Two scenarios face the party: either do the deal, avoid an imminent Assembly election and face the charge of ‘betrayal’ from the UCUNF and Allister- a charge with considerable weight given the fact that, only days ago, a senior party member claimed there’d be no devolution in the lifetime of this Assembly (and, indeed, let’s not forget the Leader-in-waiting, Nigel Dodds, claiming we’d have to wait a ‘generation’ for such progress.)

    Alternatively, the party rejects the offer to deal, Stormont falls and the DUP take the blame with them to rap the doors of an already disillusioned party electorate.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Is there anyone left who is still ‘Catholic friendly’, or since you raise the subject, well disposed toward any religion.

    As for ‘community confidence’ do you have any confidence in a policing board that may contain members who assisted child abusers to escape the law?

    More than anything else P&J focus our attention on the outstanding unanswered questions.

    The Robinson affair is largely irrelevant,, the DUP are hard line bigots who were never going to last longer than the troubles.

  • Mick Fealty

    Cynic2, did I say that? I’ve said a few daft things in the last few days (like Monday would be his last day), but I am off the Astrology tea kick now)..

    You may be right. Honestly, some party insiders are taking comfort from the positive noises they are getting from church and other places. But I would not be very happy if I were them just now.

    It’s a lottery at this stage.

    The party will have to contend with the propaganda coup Gerry Moriarty talks about since the press have been misreporting and pressing the kind of mischievious line Henry’s pushing above.

    The real mark of who won and who lost over P&J is whether Parades are included. The DUP’s trouble is that if senior journalists wilfully ignore that kind of detail then the fact of getting policing and justice will look like a Sinn Fein win, even if it’s not.

    When the DUP gone and buried, we will still be stuck with the problem of peace process journalism. Unless some happens that takes the editorial choices out of the hands of individual journalists and editors.

    MU, I hear what you say about the redoubtable Pete Baker, and it is great to hear someone sing his praises for the right reasons.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Pippakin

    Some have tried to sell the UCUNF initiative as being such a product.

    Second point: I take it you’re referring to Gerry Adams. Quite apart from the fact that he isn’t a member of the Policing Board I fail to see how, with the evidence currently out in the public domain, you can justify the allegation that he “assisted child abusers to escape the law?”

    In fact, that is a rather libellous assertion.

    Lastly, the Robinson ‘affair’ is not irrelevant and the party have (up to now) done quite well in the post-Troubles era.

  • Chris Donnelly

    No I was not referring to Gerry Adams as I have stated continually and no doubt boringly I do sympathise with his dilemma, assuming of course that he is telling the truth. My little blog: http://pippakin-meiow.blogspot.com Item Ten – The sins of the fathers enlarges on this matter.

    I was referring to very serious allegations made here and elsewhere, which need to be answered urgently. In addition Liam Adams appears to have been quite senior within Sinn Fein and presumably available for any position he wished to apply for.

    You are right of course, not I have to insist about the Robinsons, politicians come and go, not one of them remembered beyond the scandal that bought them down, but about the DUP, there is a possibility that they will regroup, join the Catholic or even Anglican church, and emerge as the voice of sweet reason. I just doubt it thats all, they became strong because Unionists felt betrayed, but those days are if not gone on the way out and they have nothing else.

  • iluvni

    In an election, what person, in good conscience, could vote for Sinn Fein given the horrendous scandal surrounding the leader’s conduct with regard to the accusations made about his brother?

    We know murder and slaughter havent been enough to turn voters away from Sinn Fein, is child abuse not enough either?
    How much worse does it have to get before the Sinn Fein voter says enough is enough?

  • Iluvni

    Agreed there are horrendous rumours bobbing about and these need to be answered honestly and openly.

    It can be argued (though not by me) that what adults do to adults in the fight for a just cause is not only allowed but laudable. It is this line of thought that gives us the Loyalist and Republican heroes.

    No cause can justify covering up the abuse of children. At the moment it is Sinn Fein who have questions to answer. I dont doubt that as time goes on and we prise open the can of worms we allowed to fester for so long, other equally damning reports will emerge of others.

    In any event its not the hard line Sinners Sinn Fein risk losing, it is the all important ‘floating voter’ who will make or break them as so many others.

  • joeCanuck

    Woods and trees always spring to mind when I see these wild accusations.
    Lies have been told,for sure, but to imply that SF is full of child abusers or coverers up of child abuse, more than the general population, is a speculation too far, I’m afraid.

  • JoeCanuck

    I totally agree with you but that is exactly where unanswered questions lead us.

    I do not believe for one minute that Sinn Fein is full of child abusers. I do believe they need to answer some serious questions and until they do no one can be blamed for asking why they wont.

    In addition the sad fact is it only takes one child abuser in a position of authority to damage a great many children. We have all seen the trials of paedophile priests. An individual priests victims can run into dozens of victims.

    Accusations have been made, I hope they are wrong, but it is not too much to expect those accusations to be answered.

  • joeCanuck

    it is not too much to expect those accusations to be answered.

    pippikin,
    Agreed but I wouldn’t get my hopes up. All we’re likely to get is more obfuscation or mumbles to the effect that the questions have already been answered.
    Politicians, like SF especially, are experts at covering up unpleasant facts. I can’t see much more progress unless investigative journalists like Ms Breen go on digging and unearth something new.

  • Lets hope she does. If S/F do not answer these questions they will lose support from the potential, not the hardliners of course, but people like me who will forgive much in the name of freedom but not, no matter what, child abuse.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Mick

    Blaming the journalists for not buying the preferred narrative of Slugger’s own Deadly Duo (that’d be you and Pete btw) sounds pretty much like desperation.

    Parades may be included, but look for the detail. A fudge arrangement is most likely on that one, and crucially it’ll most probably be one that leaves those intransigent itchy Orange feet no nearer to waltzing wherever/ whenever they want to.

  • danielmoran

    Panic…… The received wisdom i think is that Sinn Fein have a bit of a dilemma coming up,
    if they decide to play hard ball with DUP knowing the latter are not in fit state for assembly election, [the one they care most about of the two possible], and decide they SF, can risk having no P&J in the event of DUP being the main unionist party in the aftermath of the election, they’ll come unstuck on P&J . But the chances of the duppers being the party to take the Deputy’s job assuming SF are the FM team, is surely slim. So Shinners might just decide they can have it both ways. Force the DUP in what could be a catastrophic result in the new term, and get the UUP to do a deal on P&J then. It’s a risk but not an enormous one.

  • Alias

    “…when it emerges it will be important to look at the detail and then ask why it could not have been done months ago, never mind last week?”

    Well, the state does have the advantage of a servile media in NI who will promote the state-supplied cover story without question but with plenty of cheerleading. So even if it is just the voodoo politics which suggests that it is the result of folks having near-death experiences and deciding to change their lives for the better (and the world to, no less) as a result…

  • joeCanuck

    Mick,
    You may have got something wrong but you were shrewd enough not to take my bet yesterday.
    Crafty bastwich.

  • joeCanuck

    Orange feet no nearer to waltzing wherever/ whenever they want to

    Chris,

    I don’t know why SF should fear the Ashdown recommendations. They will likely make contentious parades less likely unless the marching orders sit down for meaningful discussions and, hopefully concessions. They should agree to dates for both implementations.

  • joeCanuck

    Presumably if a date for P&J is announced within the next few days, Lord Morrow and Geoffrey Campbell will resign from the DUP, maybe even defect to the TUV.
    Or would that be too honourable a thing for them to do?

  • Kevsterino

    Who is Geoffrey Campbell? Or is it a typo? Sorry if the latter.

  • joeCanuck

    Correct Kev,
    Should have been the bold MLA from the NorthWest, Gregory.

  • Kevsterino

    Ok, Gregory does indeed appear slightly offside on the P & J thing.

    I have no sense of how the local opinion drives these things. Can anyone say if the feelings in East Derry vary much from East Belfast regarding power sharing in general and policing and justice in particular?

  • danielmoran

    msg 15. joe canuck. The local BBC newsline political hack, martina purdy, has just said that if the Govt or govts see that no deal is possible between SF and DUP this week, they’ll go for suspension. This is lazy journalism, because she ought to know that at SAA Sinn Fein made the deal on assumption that suspension by any outside party was not allowed. Is MP implying that Marty will give suspension the nod in spite of this?

  • Kevsterino

    Suspension would be awfully hard to lift once it is imposed. I think the two governments would only do it if they concluded there was little hope to keep the project going.

    Then what?

  • joeCanuck

    Daniel and Kev,

    There aren’t many options. The whole damn thing (Assembly) is effectively a mess.
    The settlement needs to be renegotiated; I expect that will take 6 months and that Robinson at least will not be back.
    I think that we need a new generation to take over all of the 4 main parties to enable serious progress to be made.

  • Kevsterino

    It reminds me of the old Monty Python bit “Spot the Looney”

    How anyone can escape politics by getting psychiatric treatment is beyond me. Maybe it would be better to elect them after they’ve had time in the “quiet room” rather than before.

  • Paul

    I think suspension then talks is the way forward.

  • danielmoran

    msg 21. Joe Canuck. If, as forecast, the talks going on between SF and the Duplicity Party break down and an assembly election takes place, the result is a humiating crash for the DUP back to their former status[pre 2002, thanks for nothing Trimble] as unmentionables, the reaction in NI on both sides will be like the night the tories were turfed out in ’97. celebration.

  • danielmoran

    Henry94. message 2
    this dialogue is brilliantly clinical assessment of NI politics.