It might help to go back to fundamentals to try to break the deadlock over parades, or at least understand it. The problem is, I dont know what the fundamentals are. No, I dont mean waffle about “communty confidence,” hidden agendas, fears, tactics, zero sum games, whataboutery or your favourite conspiracy theory. Just the straight up issues on the ground. Youd have thought that Sinn Fein who are so keen to have J&P powers transferred would be desperate for their electoral reps to exercise their statesmanlike discretion along the lines of the interim Ashdown report – indeed, that they would be the party demanding guarantees over parades before J&P is devolved. The DUP you might think would be resisting the remotest chance of submitting to a nationalist veto in the pure exercise of their inalienable marching rights. And with lots of grumbling admittedly, that they would grudgingly settle for the quango, the legacy of direct rule which is their second best – and sometimes first option. Time is overdue for the governments to intervene, though they need it like a hole in the head. My slight worry is that with Jonathan Powell gone from Downing St and the change of guard in Government Buildings in Dublin, a lot of the old schmoozing skills will be absent. Why don’t they make Sinn Fein and the DUP play scenario games and swap roles to learn how to referee the competing rights? Come to think of it, it would make a great Spotlight.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London