“We have to close that vacuum..”

The BBC reports Northern Ireland Secretary of State Shaun Woodward’s comments after meeting the Irish foreign minister, Michael Martin, in Dublin

[Shaun Woodward] said: “It’s a very important time for all unionists to realise that now is the time to complete devolution. “There is an urgency which is why this needs to be addressed in these coming days and weeks.” Mr Woodward said dissident republicans who attacked a police officer last week were exploiting the “vacuum” in the process.

“Very clearly what happened to the police officer cannot be allowed to continue and I think we all have to pay attention to the vacuum which inevitably exists while these people still disagree about this work. “We have to close that vacuum and the best way to do that is to do all we can to get the parties to reach agreement.”

The only potential “vacuum” exists if Sinn Féin takes the political ball from the pitch by collapsing the NI Assembly. If that’s what they’re prepared to do. Last time I looked it was still there. We know why they’re threatening to do that. And they’ve been talking themselves into that corner for some time. Some clarity on the latest Sinn Féin crisis here. Shaun Woodward’s right, though, that any subsequent “vacuum” risks emboldening still-violent republican paramilitaries – but devolving policing and justice powers isn’t going to discourage them. After all, they’re only “[keeping] faith with the republican past…” Adds Of course, the UK and Irish governments won’t be setting any “artificial deadlines”. That would be “banal and silly”.

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  • Driftwood

    Woodwards last attempt to bounce his allies given the bookies latest odds:

    Singles Only.
    Overall majority defined as a grouping getting 326 seats or more. Applies to the next UK General Election:

    Conservative and Ulster Unionist Majority 1/3

    None 9/4

    Labour/Sinn Fein/DUP Majority 12/1

  • Paul Doran

    Me thinks the deal will be done.Just like the war , the people are fed up with it. at that time
    SF knew it. and now the people want this dealt with.No better time now.This is the best time for this to happen in the last 5 years.

  • Paul Doran

    Anybdoy watch TV 3 tonight , Nora Owen ,leo (Cameroon)What is it with VB he can’t get a few good guests or are people fed up with his antics.
    The odd serious question, but no rael substance

  • Pete Baker

    Paul

    “This is the best time for this to happen in the last 5 years.”

    Even better than May 2008?!

  • percy

    peteb
    I think you’ve got it the wrong way round;
    and not for the first time either:

    [Shaun Woodward] said:
    “It’s a very important time for all unionists to realise that now is the time to complete devolution

  • Alias

    It’s interesting that the BBC (in your first link) are still promoting the claim that Mr Robinson breached the Ministerial Code when in actuality there is no whistleblowers’ clause in any of the code regulating public life in the UK. The BBC is implying that ministers’ “being obliged by the ministerial code to act in the public interest at all times” means that there is a duty on them to report suspected wrongdoing by other elected officials. That is simply incorrect. This, of course, is the disputed claim that they first made in the Spotlight programme. However, that is a very useful misinterpretation of the Ministerial Code that could be used by the State to direct its officials to find against the propriety of Mr Robinson’s conduct if it so wished. That potential then gives the British state some extra leverage over the First Minister – leverage which it may well be using to hurry him to pick the infamous triple lock.

    Clearly emotional blackmail is considered fair tactic since the British state is all but accusing Mr Robinson of the attack on the PSNI officer, and stating that Mr Robinson failure to pick said lock will cause for other such attacks, notwithstanding that such attacks will occur irrespective of whether P&J is devolved sooner rather than later or not at all.

  • Driftwood

    percy
    Shaun Woodward will be history very shortly, he wants to leave a footprint in the sand.
    The DUP are vulnerable and will probably give him his wish. Like Labour they are washed up on the beach. No big deal.
    Tides come in and out. Woodwards footprint is at low tide.

  • Pete,

    There seems to be few if any bloggers on Slugger who appear to favour a settlement being reached between SF and the DUP with many blogs characterised by insidious terminology (e.g. Semi Detached Politburo) and multiple links to other blogs which point to further entirely negative interpetations of events and although I share a distaste for much of what SF stands for I find it strange that people who have witnessed the dreadful events of the ‘troubles’ and espouse an analytical view of political events should not welcome political movement and a further distancing from those dreadful times.

    But, of course it is not just Slugger, a few weeks ago the Belfast Telegraph editorial advised the DUP not to do a deal with SF and although I accept that the Irish and British governments are applying pressure to the DUP to make the deal and that some Unionists like myself may find that hard to swallow, it is after all in a very good cause and probably required to secure the furure of devolution.

    But, perhaps journalists, professional and otherwise, are worried about running out of material in less contentious times or perhaps they are even more worried that their dire predcitons of doom and gloom and thier ultra negative take on the nascent assembly will be shown to be unfounded?

    Well now there is a deal in the air and surely that is good news after the terrible personal and political traumas of the last week or so and Slugger (and the BT) should welcome the changing times as there will I’m sure, as always, still be plenty to blog and write about.

  • Pete Baker

    MU

    “Well now there is a deal in the air and surely that is good news after the terrible personal and political traumas of the last week or so and Slugger (and the BT) should welcome the changing times as there will I’m sure, as always, still be plenty to blog and write about.”

    You’d need to ask the other bloggers on Slugger about their views on that.

    I doubt that you’ll find much agreement.

    But you spectacularly miss the point about my posts on this topic.

    Fundamentally I have no opinion whatsoever on whether SF and the DUP should agree on devolving policing and justice powers.

    I’m just pointing out the circumstances in which we are being invited to encourage them to do so.

    “I find it strange that people who have witnessed the dreadful events of the ‘troubles’ and espouse an analytical view of political events should not welcome political movement and a further distancing from those dreadful times.”

    I see you’ve already decided those circumstances…

  • jack

    Good analyses Pete yes .What has happened now is that SF have got what they wished for .Before now they kept us all guessing about what they would do if p&j didnt happen –toys out of the pram or something really big ,would they really do it . And this was before Iris ! All of this down to DUP failure to deal with Allister .Then came Iris god bless her !! IT was a master stroke ” i’ll call these F…..S Bluff I,ll make them really think that we ( DUP) really really dont want an erection sorry election .Just when they think they have us by the balls … sorry , we will let them have the ball Back . SO now we will see who blinks first . Iris payed a huge price her ,ALL for the cause I think she should get a knighthood .

  • joeCanuck

    Knighthood? Not unless there’s a drastic bit of surgery.

    From Wiki:
    Knighthood carries the title Sir; the female equivalent Dame only exists within the orders of chivalry.

  • PaddyReilly

    What surprises me is how keen SF are to have P & J devolved into the control of NI politicians after the latest demonstration of what NI politicians are actually like.

  • Dewi

    “Fundamentally I have no opinion whatsoever on whether SF and the DUP should agree on devolving policing and justice powers”

    Strange Pete – surely you have a view?

  • Pete,

    “I’m just pointing out the circumstances in which we are being invited to encourage them to do so.”

    I’m afraid that contention doe not stand up when judged against your pejorative language, selective quotes, general ongoing negativity about the Assembly and particularly your contradicting of the rationale (P and J transfer would undermine the dissidents) behind the Secretary of State reasoning for wanting a deal.

    It is of course all very arguable, but no where near an analysis approaching objectivity. But we do all struggle at times to see through our own ideology and I even, very occasionally, have such trouble myself.

    But I take it you are with me on the Belfast Telgraph though? Are they not owned by someone from the South, making it even more puzzling?

  • pete whitcroft

    Moderate Unionist

    Peter like David before him hasn’t bitten the bullet quick enough. I think he will look back with regret without a doubt.

    The continual mantra of unionist or public confidence will be harder to sell in the context of a cornered and time limited negotiator.

    Going to the electorate with a weapon called stop Martin or Gerry becoming 1st Minister will have power no doubt but less if the deal is done.

    Reg/David may be outflanked by a deal but will gain significantly and Jim will have a field day and could lift 8-10 seats.

    I can’t see why Nigel, Gregory, Willie, Paisley, Jeffrey etc. are going for this scenario.

  • Danny O’Connor

    I fully expect SF to give Robinson an easy run,because P&J has become make or break for them,they realise that there is a greater chance of a deal with him than whoever any potential successor might be.

  • joeCanuck

    Dewi,

    You’re not going to get Pete to divulge who he might vote for. He never has.
    He has an obvious distaste for S.F. but so does around 75% of the population.
    C’est la vie.

  • koan

    To suggest that a ‘political vacuum’ would only emerge if SF walked away from the institutions is inaccurate. Further delays in delivering on P&J (which has a totemic significance within the Republican community) have the potential to play into the hands of nihilists in the so called dissident margins. The British and Irish Governments spotted unprecedented leverage to push Robinson & the DUP towards a deal the moment he staged the sham pre-emptive armchair strike last week.

    Robinson and his cohorts might have gone full-time into the insulation business ahead of the Spotlight programme, but we all know that leaders who hang around for too long (whether SF or DUP) leave a long trail of opportunities for the Masters of the Black Arts to collect IOUs.

  • Alias

    I don’t buy the line that the DUP want do a deal now because they want to avoid an election. That threat didn’t make them want to do a deal before now.

    Of course folks will claim that voters didn’t know that the First Minister had an unfaithful wife and that voters will not for the DUP because of this new information, and that that is the reason why the DUP want to do a deal now to avoid an election.

    But how plausible is that? Would the voters refuse to vote for the DUP because of Irishgate? I think that is highly unlikely. It is far more likely that the DUP would more lose votes in any future election as a result of being forced into doing a deal now than they would lose in an immediate election as a result of Irisgate.

    So why are they seemingly preparing to do something that will damage the party? Well, the party is not preparing to do this but the party leader is. So why would the party leader act against the best electoral interests of his own party?

    Would the answer have something to do with the British state having a vice-like grip on his balls? It is now up to the British state to either act on the ground prepared by the BBC regarding its dubious interpretation of the Ministerial Code (i.e. its claim that a duty to act in the public interest is a de facto ‘duty to report’ clause) or to reject this prepared ground and assert that the Ministerial Code contains no such duty de jure and therefore the First Minister’s conduct complied with the code. The state thusly can either damn him or clear him at its whim by directing the existing inquiry or by initiating others.

    I suspect that the First Minister is well aware of this and that is why he is signalling his intention to do a deal on a date but that in fact he will not do such a deal. Once he gets the all clear from the existing inquiry into his conduct, he’ll be safe from the risk of the state initiating any other inquiry and may well give the two fingers to the state. If he does sell out his party, then he is finished within it and the party itself is then in real trouble from within and without. But then again, the title of Lord Robinson might comfort him in his retirement.

  • Henry94

    Koan is right. It’s about chiaking off support for the dissidents. It’s misding the point to say the dissidents won’t be impressed . In fact they will be worried. They don’t want this because it undermines their appeal and their case.

    When Unionists ran the state and the RUC was their police force it was fully and actively supported by the unionist people. We need that level of support for a better police force in the whole community. The Gardai have it in the south and the PSNI need it. I would bet that within a decade of devolution policing won’t even be an issue. It will be the natural relflex of the ordinary citizen to back the cops. Why anyone would other that a dissident would want to stand in the way of that defies comprehension.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Look the DUPs opposition to the devolving of policing and justice was only ever tactical. Different circumstances demand different tactics. When you suddenly find yourself 2-0 down with 15 minutes to go the tactics have to change and pretty damn quick.

    It is sad that the DUP were just playing silly games over policing and justice and if nothing else this Robinson debacle has made it clear to everybody that the DUP position on the issue was just playing silly buggers.

    The Dup will have to be nailed to the ground on a timetable for the devolution of P/J or they will go back to playing silly buggers again.

    The Tories and the UUP would be well served if this issue was settled and devolved as soon as possible.

  • Henry94

    Apologies for the worse than usual mangling of the above post. First time posting from the iPhone.

  • Neil

    Alias,

    the Ministerial Code contains no such duty de jure

    Ministerial Code of Conduct, Northern Ireland Executive

    Ministers must at all times,

    1.5 (ix) declare any personal or business interests which may conflict with their responsibilities. The Assembly will retain a Register of Interests. Individuals must ensure that any direct or indirect pecuniary interests which members of the public might reasonably think could influence their judgement are listed in the Register of Interests.

    Now it’s all well and good for people to say that Iris’ financial dealings had no impact on Peter’s ability to act in the public interest, but no one can say for sure. How would you behave towards a man you had just learned gave your missus an interest free twenty five grand loan? Personally, I’d feel a little beholden to him. I know the Robbos are reportedly cleaning up so in that respect 25k isn’t a lot of money (to them) but to the vast majority it’s over a year’s wages. Do members of the public referred to in point 9 of the code think that Peter’s ability to act in the public interest been compromised?

    From what I can gather plenty do like, most likely most UUP, SF and TUV voters. Are they calling him into question for electoral gain or because of a genuine concern for the rules? One things certain, itis not for Peter or the DUP in general to decide, for if it were Seymour would be in his office at the Causeway by now.

    Point being, by my reading of the wording there, any direct or indirect pecuniary interest, there is an indirect pecuniary interest. I’m fairly certain that members at Westminster are not allowed to turn round after a scandal breaks involving cash changing hands and blame the wife, or they’d all be at it.

    A marriage is in many respects like a business. At the end of the month there’s a bottom line. Their financial dealings are linked, and could be interpreted as being an indirect pecuniary interest by a third party over the theoretically most influential politician in the country. In my interpretation it’s a breach of rule 9, contrary to your suggestion that there is no case to answer.

    The seven principles of public life which Peter is obliged to follow contains these two, among others.

    Openness

    Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

    Honesty

    Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

    I’d summarise thus: some people feel sorry for the guy and that’s great, and this being Northern Ireland universal popularity is damn near impossible for any politician. But many people, on both sides of the divide heard that the Robbos had acted within the rules for claiming the maximum food allowance for every available day during the Westminster year and were sickened. Yes they acted within the rules, but it’s not the kind of dishonesty you’d expect from a Christian.

    The various claims that were revealed during the expenses scandal damaged the Robbos, you may have seen some of the stuff in the Daily Mail. Coupled with the alienation dealt out to people with an abominator in the family, (like myself, and there are a lot of families like that), the Robbos are damaged goods, before Irisgate. but to suggest he has no case to answer seems laughable.

  • Kensei

    The only potential “vacuum” exists if Sinn Féin takes the political ball from the pitch by collapsing the NI Assembly.

    Incorrect. A power vacuum exists just as effectively if SF can be easily portrayed as having gotten nothing for their moves on policing that occured after the St Andrew’s Agreement. Dissidents thrive on that narrative.

    You might very well blame SF for that. But that isn’t at all the same thing. Repeatingly it a lot does not actually make it true.

    The line “you can’t expect their opponents to bail them out…” is also problematic if the consequences is an increased body count and a collapse oif the institutions. You’d need to think long and hard about whether stuffing SF is worth it in those conditions.

    If that’s what they’re prepared to do. Last time I looked it was still there. We know why they’re threatening to do that. And they’ve been talking themselves into that corner for some time. Some clarity on the latest Sinn Féin crisis here.

    Or they have been carefully preparing their electorate for it; hence the poll last week showing that a slight majority of Catholics were prepared to see the Assembly fall over it. I’m not sure if I see that anywhere in your multiple linkfest there, Pete….. but that might run against the narrative you are pushing. But hey, you are an impartial truth seeker. Must have been an oversight.

    Shaun Woodward’s right, though, that any subsequent “vacuum” risks emboldening still-violent republican paramilitaries – but devolving policing and justice powers isn’t going to discourage them.

    Which is a complete Straw Man. No one believes it’ll discourage dissidents, simply choke them of oxygen and allow less traction. And also potentially free up SF to have a harder go at them atatcing a police force answerable to a local politician.

    Fundamentally I have no opinion whatsoever on whether SF and the DUP should agree on devolving policing and justice powers

    Spare us the bullshit.

  • Alias

    Neil, that is not a “duty to report” suspected breaches of a code of conduct by other parties who are subject to any of the codes governing public life in the UK.

    There was a ‘duty to report’ in the Local Government Act 2000 governing councillors in England but that was removed from the Act in 2007.

    There is no whistleblowers’ charter in any of the codes. Therefore, Mr Robinson cannot be held to be in breach of a duty that he did not possess.

  • Alias

    Incidentally, the First Minister ensured that that his wife returned the money so that he would not be in any compromised by it. That shows that he complied with the “Integrity” part of the Seven Principles of Public Life: “Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.”

    The important point to remember here is that it is now alleged that the First Minister breached the Ministerial Code by failing to report suspected misconduct by another elected official to the applicable standards authority. However, there is no such duty to report in any of the codes of conduct regulating public life in the UK. In other words, those in public life do not have a statutory requirement to blow the whistle on suspected wrongdoing by other people in public life.

  • Neil

    That may well be your interpretation, however:

    Individuals must ensure that any direct or indirect pecuniary interests which members of the public might reasonably think could influence their judgement are listed in the Register of Interests.

    My interpretation is that members of the public might reasonably think that Peter’s wife’s acceptance of an interest free loan from a developer may influence his judgement.

    Unless you are of the opinion that members may accept loans through their wives and partners, and such loans are not subject to the rules due to the fact that they were taken by the partner or wife as opposed to the member himself. In that instance it’s surprising that no English MPs are getting interest free loans from third parties, as this would be legal and above board (though that’s clearly not the case).

    I am not saying he has to be a whistleblower on an MP, I’m saying that interest free loans and gifts channelled through a wife or partner qualifies in my opinion as an indirect pecuniary interest and as such should have been declared. He is not grassing up a fellow minister, he is grassing up his wife for accepting a loan that should have been declared.

    That is without even thinking of the openness section in the 7 rules. You think he kept schtum because it was not in the public interest? I don’t.

  • Neil

    Incidentally, the First Minister ned the money so that he would not be in… that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.”

    Wonderful. Could you reproduce a list of rules he didn’t break for us? Or would that be pointless? There are 7 principles, and no one is suggesting he broke them all. So save time by not reproducing here each rule which was not broken, I concede: he didn’t break every rule.

    Secondary to that, are you suggesting that members (through their wives) are entitled to take interest free loans and they are not classed as a pecuniary interest? He was obliged to declare it, regardless of whether or not he paid the interest free loan back.

    The important point to remember here is that it is now alleged that the First Minister breached the Ministerial Code by failing to report suspected misconduct by another elected official

    Do you accept Iris is also his wife? Again, no one is suggesting he whistleblow on an MP, however many people will say that a families finances are tied together. If your wife accepts an interest free loan, regardless of her profession, should it be declared as a pecuniary interest? Or is it open season for members to channel money, perfectly legally through their partners and wives? Honest question.

  • Alias

    [i]”My interpretation is that members of the public might reasonably think that Peter’s wife’s acceptance of an interest free loan from a developer may influence his judgement.”[/i]

    Indeed, and his wife having affairs may also influence his judgement. However you will be pleased to know that there is no statutory duty on him to lock her in the basement lest an affair occur and his judgement be thusly influenced. He is not responsible for his wife’s actions, you see. So she is free to do what she likes without having a duty to consult him about what she is permitted by him to do and, more pertinently, without him having a duty to consult her about what she does or does not do. He has not signed a duty with the public to be his wife’s keeper.

    [i]”Unless you are of the opinion that members may accept loans through their wives and partners, and such loans are not subject to the rules due to the fact that they were taken by the partner or wife as opposed to the member himself.”[/i]

    You appear to be a bit confused about who has accepted the loan/gift. To clear up your confusion: it was Iris Robinson who accepted the loans (without her husband’s knowledge, incidentally) and not Peter Robinson. You are engaging in a liable there.

    [i]”I am not saying he has to be a whistleblower on an MP, I’m saying that interest free loans and gifts channelled through a wife or partner qualifies in my opinion as an indirect pecuniary interest and as such should have been declared.”[/i]

    Right, that is too close to liable for comfort. I totally reject your implication that Mr Robinson secured these loans via his wife for his own benefit. That is just an utterly bizarre invention…

    Now I suggest that you go away and google for information on what a “duty to report” means in law. Also google to see if any of the codes of conduct regulating public life in the UK have such a duty. I think you will find that none of them do. Since none of the codes have a duty to report clause, the First Minister cannot be in breach of a duty that he did not possess.

  • Alias

    liable = libel

  • Alias

    Incidentally, Mr Robinson had no pecuniary interest in the loan/gift to his wife since, rather obviously, she did not lodge this money into their joint bank account or even into her own bank account. When he was made aware that his wife had a hidden beneficial interest in this money he immediately acted to ensure that she returned this money to the source of it. He had no duty to do that either since it was not his money, but he used his influence over his wife to ensure that she returned it. That shows integrity on the part of the First Minister. If she did not return it could not at any point be claimed that Mr Robinson had gained from it.

    The Seven Principles of Public Life declares that: “Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.” The onus is o the holder of public office to regulate his own behaviour in accordance with the Ministerial Code, and not on him to regulate the behaviour of third parties who are not subject to the code.

  • Pete Baker

    Ken

    Here’s another archived post for you to think about.

    When “agreed truth becomes accepted, the real truth becomes a lie”

  • [quote]Of course folks will claim that voters didn’t know that the First Minister had an unfaithful wife … Posted by Alias on Jan 13, 2010 @ 03:32 AM[/quote]

    A sure sign of a right dodgy and/or inadequate husband, is a toy boy lover, Alias?

    And don’t forget, Alias, Iris in not unfaithful she is mentally ill and now muzzled and unable to speak ….. although exact details of the who and the where and the how of treatment are decidedly sketchy and politically sensitive for the added semantic information which would be gleaned from any discosures/utterances.

    Even the Paisleys’ are wary of opening their mouths and forming a coherent sentence on Party matters less Intelligence reads between the lines for the truth which would lurk there.

    I have a question ….. Have dissident republicans claimed responsibility for the recent PSNI attack on Constable Peadar Heffron or has it just been attributed to them? I just cannot recall the news at the time.

    And if not is the question above more accurate than you would wish to believe on “an Irish language specialist for the PSNI and captain of the PSNI GAA team …….. related to a senior Sinn Fein member.” … http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8447829.stm

    [quote] Apologies for the worse than usual mangling of the above post. First time posting from the iPhone ….. Posted by Henry94 on Jan 13, 2010 @ 08:40 AM [/quote] A present from Santa, Henry94? 🙂

    Given the pathetic, and some would even forward selective and subjective and therefore also probably criminal, state of Policing and Justice in Great Britain, the sooner responsibility for the actions of the population in Northern Ireland is transferred to local jurisdiction and accountability the better.