However it began, this is no mere blip

It puzzled me to hear that the two prime ministers decided on the spur of the moment to fly to Belfast yesterday afternoon. Everybody in Belfast could have told them that’s what they were going to do. The rattles had been thrown right out of the pram and nursey was needed. Mark Hennessy makes the correction in the Irish Times. But why did they gather in Downing St at all and waste the best part of a day? They could have had their pre-meet at Hillsborough. Were they underestimating the crisis up the 11th hour ? Did they really believe that the meeting between McGuinness and Robinson would be the breakthrough? The minimalist view Brown and Cowen presented is clearly flawed “Just a couple of points to clear up and we’ll be home for breakfast ( I made that last bit up). What I might call the middle view, Pete’s theory of the contrived crisis, was interestingly a point of division in late night briefings.

DUP’s Sammy Wilson “As far as we are concerned this is a contrived crisis, we don’t need to be here.
(Conor) Murphy of Sinn Fein argued: “It’s not a contrived crisis. If it was contrived, I doubt that you would have the taoiseach, the British Prime Minister and the possibility of the Americans becoming involved,” he said

While I’d say Chris Donnelly makes too much of Sinn Fein faultlessness, they’ve been playing their hand with their usual emotional intelligence (craftiness to you). But it seems to me that Sinn Fein are as entitled as the DUP to say they’re under pressure. And they’re entitled to an answer to the fundamental question: after standing down the IRA and supporting policing against our own apostates, what do we have to do?”

Then there’s the maximalist view, that the parades issue goes to the heart of insecurities on both sides. However expressed, unionism wants fewer restrictions on parades and nationalists are resisting any further concessions.. Based on their experience of much unionist-dominated council behaviour, nationalists fear that if parades rulings are handled by councils, unionist councils will take the “triumphalist” view and back them willy-nilly. Mediation is on the back foot immediately and Sinn Fein lose the first round. They can’t afford to do that with eirigi and the dissidents breathing down their necks locally at key flashpoints. Parades therefore are about basic confidence, self and mutual.

It’s true that the main parties’ positions are replete with irony. On parades handling, it’s Sinn Fein who are resisting devolution to elected representatives and the DUP who drag on J&P the traditional unionist touchstone for full self-government. “Why are the Shinners so keen on it,” they wonder, “ do they know something we don’t?”. If the premiers manage to get the two anomalies into synch they might be getting somewhere. But their main pitch must be to think the unthinkable. If the vacuum expands, the mantra everybody is repeating, that of course the troubles can’t come back, will begin to ring hollow. If the dissidents’ rhythm quickens, who knows where it leads if politics runs out – and how foolish to hand the initiative over to them. So make no mistake, however it started, this stand-off goes to the heart not only of powersharing but the ability to live in a stable peace. It’s the arms decommissioning and criminality problem of the 2010s. We can only hope that the narrower focus permits a faster resolution.

  • alan56

    Judging by Conor Murphy’s comments we are approaching end game

  • joeCanuck

    But there are a number of ends; Draw,Checkmate or Stalemate.

  • danielmoran

    Brian Walker. You have the answer to the question in your quote that nationalists fear that if councils are given the whip hand [ashdown plan], unionist councils will do as usual and let OO wlk regardless, The DUP obviously know the SF couldn’t wear this, and have erected this barrier, not with the intention of getting it, but delaying P&J until after westminster poll [they must know what their private polls tell them about that], and prevent TUV harming them more than they can take.
    Alas, for the DUP the timing is dire, because the Premiers are bound to bring this to a head months before this election, and will be so enraged at having their time wasted, they might just call the blame on the DUP, and announce a return to plan B. Exactly what the DUP went in with SF to prevent. checkmate to SF.

  • Banjaxed

    Brian makes some excellent points about SF’s postion. Even were it in SF’s gift to hand over the parades issue to councils, which it most certainly isn’t, it stll wouldn’t resolve the problem. That is only one other issue, like P & J, thrown up to forstall *ANY* major agreement or ‘concession’ as the DUPs would claim. It is merely another excuse and it’s in this where I would agree with Empey and Adams that we have a totally disfunctional Executive. Absolutely nothing will be agreed by the DUPs until they actually face up to the hypnotic influence of Jim Allister. Like Kaa, the snake in Jungle Book, he has them mesmerised and in a state of both terror and stasis lest they do anything positive and be seen to be ‘colluding with terrorists’. Under these circumstances they couldn’t even run a corner shop, never mind a small riverside cafe.

    They have yet to come to terms with power sharing and, as for treating Martin McGuinness as equal to the First Minister, despite it being a joint position, forget it. Until they start treating their Nationalist/Republican colleagues as equals, and treating them with due respect, I for one would welcome elections. It pains me to say this as it is, IMHO, an admission of defeat that we can’t work together. Must we always go out of our way to prove to the world that this small patch is indeed a failed state?

    It’s strange, but in a way we have Iris Robinson’s indiscretions to thank for blowing the fig leaf from off this charade and exposing the nakedness and paucity of thought and imagination inherent in DUP politics.

  • ding dong

    THe real reason the DUP are so scared of the TUV is that know of the Governments preference has always been to do a deal with the hardliners so the agreement would stick.

    HMG thought that Robinson was the hardliner but not anymore. Is Robinson nervous HMG may be doing to him what they did to trimble – have face to face with him while courting Wee Jim behind closed doors – nothing would surprise me

  • ‘colluding with terrorists’

    Banjaxed, just because President McAleese endorses the likes of Martin McGuinness and Jackie McDonald doesn’t mean that everyone else should follow like lemmings.

  • Banjaxed

    Nevin, face it and accept it. McGuinness has a democratic mandate, McDonald does not. You don’t have to agree with or even ‘endorse’ those elected but you do have to work with them if you want the wheels of state to turn. It’s called democracy, in case you’d forgotten.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “(Conor) Murphy of Sinn Fein argued: “It’s not a contrived crisis. If it was contrived, I doubt that you would have the taoiseach, the British Prime Minister and the possibility of the Americans becoming involved,” he said”

    Oooh sent to the head teacher, must be serious…

  • Bajaxed, it’s not my fault if folks choose to vote for folks affiliated to organisations that continue to operate Mafia-style organised crime wings. It’s bad news for democracy but London and Dublin will compromise common decency to protect their own HQs.

  • PT, perhaps Hillary will appear soon to wield the lash 🙂

  • Banjaxed

    Nevin, I understand where you’re coming from and, to an extent, sympathise. Nonetheless, we have a system of sorts which might work, should the protagonists allow it to (some don’t, hence the present mess). But that’s the system we have, agreed between two sovereign governments and signed up to in their own peculiar ways (!?) by all parties. I would like to give it a fair wind but, with that in mind, I have not, nor will I, ever endorse or any act of violence which, some claim, has got us to this juncture. By voting one doesn’t necessarily condone.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Hmm why bother voting for any of them, when it can be shown time and again that we need those in REAL power to intervene when they all huff like very very small children?