Hillsborough Agreement: some TUVish thoughts; and blackadder

So the deal has finally been done: unless the UUP can be induced to throw a spanner in the works; or the DUP’s consultation with the community shows that the unionist community really will not accept the agreement; or Robinson’s cunning devices can be shown to be more effective than Baldrick’s cunning plans. A negative outcome of the DUP’s consultation seems vanishingly unlikely: when political parties consult the community they always claim to get the answer they had already decided on: anyone who doubts this should think of the effects of the DUP’s consultation of the community after their European election debacle; nothing whatsoever (incidentally the Presbyterian church are also very fond of such consultations).

Clearly the DUP have been proclaiming the deal as a major success: although surprisingly Peter Robinson is more bullish in his News Letter article than on the DUP’s own website where he admits more to compromises and indeed raises the spectre of needing to move forwards lest we slip back into violence: a favourite tactic of Trimble and Paisley in the past to explain away concessions made to republicans.The DUP can of course legitimately point out that their European election manifesto did support the devolution of policing and justice (not that the DUP have always stuck to their manifesto commitments) though that support depended on:

(1)Satisfactory financial arrangements
(2)Appropriate institutional arrangements
(3)Tangible republican support for policing and the rule of law

The first may have been achieved but the latter two are considerably more shaky. The DUP tried very hard to keep the justice minister semi detached from the executive lest the minister’s decisions come under the scrutiny and control of the rest of the executive. This of course was to ensure that Sinn Fein would not be able to exercise a veto; although this always seemed a difficult position to advance it was once suggested by the DUP but was lost at the Hillsborough negotiations. As such on cross cutting issues there will be a Sinn Fein veto as there will be on issues related to finance.

The issue of republican support for policing and the rule of law is of course a matter of judgement. The DUP appear not to mind about incidents such as Conor Murphy’s criticism of the seizure of Sean Hughes’s assets, particularly odd in view of what Peter Robinson had to say about Mr. Hughes previously.

The reality of course is that although devolution of policing and justice was official DUP policy, they repeatedly refused to name a date and gloried in their ability to avoid doing so, repeatedly humiliating Sinn Fein over this. Lord Morrow famously ruled it out in the life time of the current assembly; Gregory Campbell suggested it might take six months or six years. Hence, the current timetable seems to be an abject defeat for the DUP.

Not only has the DUP had to concede on the timing and the fact that the P&J minister’s role can be affected by the mutual vetoes but other defeats stalk the agreement.

The Review of Outstanding Issues from St. Andrews has the potential to create further problems. This review is to report by the end of February, create a working group by the end of March and agree a programme to complete the conclusions within four weeks. This raises the spectre of the Irish Language Act etc reappearing in the near future. Of course the DUP could stall again on this issue as they did over P&J. However, we have now seen that the DUP are unwilling to hold the line when faced with the threat of an election and as such any claims that they will stop an ILA must be taken not with pinch but a lorry load of salt. In addition to the ILA the other outstanding issues from St Andrews are a review (with a view to expansion not contraction) of the North South bodies, the North South Civic Forum and the North South Parliamentary Forum. All of these may continue to be blocked by the DUP but again there is nothing to stop Sinn Fein from creating further crises over these issues when it feels that this is necessary and such seems to be the DUP’s pathological aversion to elections at the moment that them holding the line on these issues is far from guaranteed.

Turning then to the DUP’s victory: the parading issue. It would be churlish not to accept some progress for them on this issue and certainly there has been some change in the mood music from republicans. However, it is unclear whether the six member working group will be able to come up with much in the way of agreed solutions; in addition the stress on local decision making will not necessarily produce solutions more acceptable to the loyal orders than the hated Parades Commission. Finally of course the timetable envisaged results in the end of the process being the end of this calender year, assuming all is agreed. That is long after the end of this year’s marching season (apart from the closing of the gates in Londonderry) and part 12 of the parading section of the agreement states: “The current adjudication mechanism of the Parades Commission will continue until the new improved arrangements are in place.”

That last paragraph demonstrates the problem with the current Hillsborough agreement. Since St. Andrews the DUP have been able to lead Sinn Fein a merry dance by not implementing things which Sinn Fein claimed that they had signed up to and using the wording of St. Andrews to back them up. In addition the DUP were keeping back from Sinn Fein things that they (Sinn Fein) wanted. This was a reversal from the previous situation whereby Sinn Fein held back things the UUP wanted (decommissioning and the like) whilst extracting concession after concession. For a time the reverse tactic has served the DUP well and it must be admitted that the proposals for the justice minister are significantly less toxic than they would have been had the DUP not held out. However, the tactic became the strategy and withholding P&J became for the DUP a mark of virility:one which has now been castrated in the most public fashion.

In addition the DUP failed to extract really major concessions from the P&J negotiations, concessions which would have made the Hillsborough agreement seem another significant victory for unionism such as an enforced timetable for voluntary coalition. Had the DUP achieved something like that the TUV’s jibes would have seemed extremely hollow. Instead being left with a review of a review of the Parades Commission seems little enough considering the political capital invested in stalling P&J. Finally for the DUP, such was their investment in what they now insist was a tactic that their supporters came to celebrate the non devolution of P&J as a sign of the DUP’s ongoing defeat of Sinn Fein. Indeed so convincing was that defeat that as mentioned above many DUP politicians such as Gregory Campbell and Maurice Morrow are now left with significant egg on their faces from the DUP’s supposed victory at Hillsborough.

Clearly the never ending saga of the rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic up on the hill will continue. However, Sinn Fein have demonstrated that by producing a near collapse they can get much of what they want. Sinn Fein seem to have less to fear from the electorate than the DUP and unless Margaret Ritchie can pull off an unbelievable transformation of the SDLP or the UUP are willing to help the DUP and the TUV vanish, that situation is likely to stay. Hence, the DUP have been shown to be in a weaker position and it is unlikely that Sinn Fein will not exploit the situation to keep moving along their staging posts. All the DUP have to look forward to is the likely loss of some seats at Westminster and the highly possible loss of their position as the largest party at the next Stormont election. Such is the legacy of Ian Paisley’s initial compromises at St Andrews and Peter Robinson’s obsession with short term tactics over long term strategy. All the DUP can do is stay in the bunker hoping that something will turn up: unless of course Peter Robinson’s cunning plan really is cunning as a fox what used to be Professor of Cunning at Oxford University but has moved on, and is now working for the UN at the High Commission of International Cunning Planning.

  • Fabianus

    Turgon,

    A lovely summary of what has not been achieved by the DUP. Well done.

    Reluctant as I am to play the man (well, perhaps not too reluctant) I do feel that Peter Robinson has stunningly illustrated the Peter Principle, viz:

    The Peter Principle: “In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence” notes that meritocracy promotes individuals based on the ability to perform their prior assignment, not the new assignment.

    In other words, Robbo has shown that what works for an estate agent (his level of competence in his former incarnation) does not necessarily transfer to more important stuff like fronting a political party or being First Minister of an Assembly.

  • percy

    Robinson has helped create a level playing field, and to his credit the future ought to be more secure, stable and prosperous.
    Things up on the hill will be done in an improved atmosphere, so all those MLA’s crowing about the need to focus on “real” issues should now do so.

    Oh and on the parades issue, the OO need to experiment with a more carnival atmosphere;
    a tricolour or two wouldn’t go amiss in the shared future.

  • slug

    Turgon

    So the TUV is causing unionist weakness by making DUP concede stuff to avoid elections?

  • Lionel Hutz

    Turgon,

    You grossly over-estimate the strength of Sinn Fein’s position in all of this. SF got lucky as the DUP were running rings round them but up popped Kirk McCambley and suddenly the DUP couldn’t afford letting Stormont fall.

    I can never get my head around unionist obsession with what they lose. Only a unionist could look at an agreement that delivered on a manifesto promise as well as getting movement on parades as a concession.

    Maybe if the TUV had backed PR during theis crisis, they would have exposed SFs weakness but you didn’t. Because the TUV is just a broken record.

  • joeCanuck

    the TUV is just a broken record

    Besides which, aren’t those things obsolete too?

  • Dev

    I find it telling that you think compromise is something that needs to be admitted to, Turgon

  • Fabianus

    JoeCanuck,

    Don’t be ridiculous. Jim Allister and the Boyz are cutting edge. For the (ahem) record, here’s his brand-new anthem.

  • SF got lucky as the DUP were running rings round them

    bollucks!

    Maybe if the TUV had backed PR during theis crisis, they would have exposed SFs weakness but you didn’t

    Well maybe if the DUP had backed DT during the build up to the GFA they would have exposed SF’s weakness but they didn’t.

    We could descend into a slagging match and bring out our little violins but really the DUP needs to take responsibility for the deal it negotiated.

  • Turgon

    Sorry all, posted and then went to bed.

    slug,
    I agree entirely. That will hopefully be the subject of a blog in the near future. Lionel Hutz and Conquistador’s points are also related top this.

  • Turgon,

    excellent analyis. The DUP’s cunning devices also puts me in mind of the ‘secret plans and clever tricks’ of Roald Dahl’s ‘Enormous crocodile’ which suggests a sense of misguided over confidence in the ruse.

    Lionel,

    “Only a unionist could look at an agreement that delivered on a manifesto promise as well as getting movement on parades as a concession.”

    That is a reasonable point but parties are judged not just on what is in their manifestos but also on their public utternances which for many is a translation of the manifesto for the benefit of the public as to what they actually intend or dont intend to do and if this translation raises expectations which are not subsequently realised then there will be blood on the carpet of the party’s HQ.

  • Gaudi

    Why is it that time and time again a political agreement has to be seen in the context of one party losing and another winning? It is deeply depressing and one wonders if there can ever be consensus politics or will there always be a political/sectarian dimension where one party has to ‘beat’ the other?

  • Scaramoosh

    Could somebody please explain why the leader of the TUV, a man whose political philosophy seems to rest on the belief that other people are not capable of changing, signed up to P&J when he was part of the DUP team?

  • Nordie Northsider

    Nice one, Fabianus. Somehow Jethro Tull don’t seem so scary anymore.

  • ding dong

    Scaramoosh

    Its simple signing up means nothing! Like manifesto promises or pledges on the doorstep – our politicians have no capacity for setting out a vison and working towards it. Everythingis vague, covered with caveats, bound by exclusion clauses with a miriad of if and buts.

    Just like the “deal/non deal” there are so many interlocking caveats and trigger points the whole thing is a mess.

    Its an agreement between two groups that don’t agreed, don’t trust each other and never will.

  • Carsons Cat

    Carson’s Cat
    Turgon – oddly, yet again in one of your posts you’ve failed to say why exactly the devolution of P&J (in itself) is a bad thing for unionism.

    Says it all really.

  • Driftwood

    Well I hope all those people on waiting lists for critical hospital treatment are chuffed to bits about a billion pounds being spent on more useless bureaucracy.

    Why is no-one on the mainland querying this?

  • David Crookes

    A great question, Scaramoosh (#12). Here’s a modest follow-up one. Given their ‘success’ in the European election, why did the TUV not hold their last meeting in the Ulster Hall?

  • Carsons Cat,

    for same reason that the DUP were very reluctant to do a deal with SF with the blarney over ‘not in a political lifetime’.

    Many Unionists, probably about a third, agree with Allister (and Turgon) that SF should have NO influence on matters pertaining to the administration of Police and Justice given their track record in these areas. Unionists like others tend to think that what they dont like is ‘bad’ for them.

    But as I’m sure you already knew this but I’m not sure why you asked the question?

  • Driftwood,

    “Why is no-one on the mainland querying this? ”

    The British policy of ‘buying off terrorists’ in Ulster is popular back on the mainland where even Tory politicans make more comparions between Ulster and Afghanistan than between Ulster and Kent.

  • Neil

    indeed raises the spectre of needing to move forwards lest we slip back into violence: a favourite tactic of Trimble and Paisley in the past to explain away concessions made to republicans.

    Whereas it’s the TUV position that we need to move backwards because..? What is moving forward for a TUV man?

    any claims that they will stop an ILA must be taken not with pinch but a lorry load of salt.

    Here we go again. It’s like Iris’ unfortunate and untimely obsession with the behaviour of gay folk behind closed doors. What is it about people you want nothing to do with speaking a language you want nothing to do with that terrifies you so much? It’s ok dude, just let us do our thing, you can do yours. You spend your hard earned taxes marching about the place, we’ll spend ours on an ILA. What’s the problem?

    All of these may continue to be blocked by the DUP but again there is nothing to stop Sinn Fein from creating further crises over these issues when it feels that this is necessary

    Which it’s worth pointing out was the DUP’s MO back in the day (when you were a DUP voter I mean). They did most of their work standing outside Stormont. It should not surprise you that SF have learned from you, any more than the DUP has learned a few tricks from SF over the years.

    in addition the stress on local decision making will not necessarily produce solutions more acceptable to the loyal orders than the hated Parades Commission

    But what makes you think that keeping the approx. 23,000 orange order members happy is a priority? Just because the solution might not be acceptable to those 23k. OO folkd it may well be acceptable to the remaining 1,660,000 of us. This is democracy.

    In addition the DUP were keeping back from Sinn Fein things that they (Sinn Fein) wanted. This was a reversal from the previous situation whereby Sinn Fein held back things the UUP wanted

    So what you’re saying is that one party holds onto it’s bargaining chip until such times as that party feels it’s got the best deal for said chip. What would the TUV approach be, just hand everything over on day one and try to win concessions thereafter? This is clearly such utter bollocks it merits a LOL. LOL.

    So in essence what you’ve given there is a particularly long winded way of describing the bargaining process which occurs in every democracy on earth, not to mention market places, shops and anywhere else where deals are struck. That this occurs in NI should not be a surprise to anyone.

    Sinn Fein seem to have less to fear from the electorate than the DUP and unless Margaret Ritchie can pull off an unbelievable transformation of the SDLP or the UUP are willing to help the DUP and the TUV vanish, that situation is likely to stay.

    And I, as a Nationalist, would like to thank the TUV for creating that sitaution. The TUV saw Nationalism getting into a position of equal status to Unionism, and that was so darned unacceptable they created a party with the impossible raison d’etre of turning back the clock. Splitting the DUP’s vote with the aim of doing the impossible and gifting SF with this situation, where the FM post is even a possibility, then for good measure criticising the DUP’s negotiating skills. God bless ye Jim.

  • Greenflag

    driftwood .

    ‘why is no-one on the mainland querying this?’

    Never thought you were that naive-They’re not that much into NI if you catch my drift . It’s an irritating little political pimple that won’t call itself by it’s proper name-i.e a political pox . The Tories have contracted already a double dose with their UCUNF adventures .

    Meanwhile the TUV retards raise the flag of a return to the past. They’re not going anywhere of course not even to the past . Canute Allister can foam at the sea for all he’s worth but very few are listening anymore and all thoughts are now turning to the probability of a ‘hung ‘ parliament .

  • scarecrow

    They’ve been sticking their idiot on you tube.

  • Halfer

    Unionist Zero sum mentality strikes again.

    Your Union is safe…. a bunch of quasi-theocratic Presbyterians are the majority party and this isnt enough?

    Why do you thrive on notions of betrayal Turgon? What exactly is it that your for? What are your democratic aspirations and how do they square in what pretty much is a failed state?

  • Sorry to interrupt the usual Slugger spleen at TUV but the reality is that putting those who murdered policemen and judges in a position of influence over policing and justice is something that some of us find kinda – repulsive. And yes, I know that the prospect of Old Bailey bomber Kelly holding the position of Justice Minister in a few years time gets republican hearts-a fluttering but why do you think any principled unionist would accept it.

    Bottom-line? The DUP lost 7-1 to IRA/Sinn Fein and now pretend it is a great victory. The electorate will have their say – clever devices or otherwise!

  • danielmoran

    Well, one thing is for sure after these two last weeks is that any more boasting by DUP about leading SF a merry dance up at Stormont is put to rest finally. What has happened after all the stalling is that Gerry Adams [as the referee] has metaphorically summoned Peter Robinson to the centre of the pitch and pointed at the spot labelledl P&J, and told him to deliver. the linesmen, [Woodward and Martin has taken robbo to the side and explained about Plan B and sent him out to bat. Last Friday was payday for DUP.
    What have they to show for three years of messing about? the shrine at the Maze is still on the listed site papers and Iris has done her bit to help SF. They should build a statue at the maze of Iris in honour of services to shinners.

  • Well, one thing is for sure after these two last weeks is that any more boasting by DUP about leading SF a merry dance up at Stormont is put to rest finally.

    That’s something we should all be able to agree on

  • Greenflag

    David Vance

    ‘but why do you think any principled unionist would accept it.’

    Nobody is worried about seven or eight unionists who may be ‘principled’ we know that if those ‘principles’ fail they have other ‘principles ‘ to fall back on :

    ‘(The DUP lost 7-1 to IRA/Sinn Fein and now pretend it is a great victory.’

    That’s what you get when you offer a battle a day to people who have been ‘battling ‘ for 50 years or more . The DUP can claim a ‘moral ‘ victory just like the rest the hypocrites . The Irish soccer team lived on ‘moral victories’ for decades before they finally made it to the world cup.

    Th electorate will have their say . And yes a minority within ‘unionism’ may vote for TUV . To what purpose and for what end -nobody knows -not even the TUV . As they are unprepared to consider power sharing with SF and as that itself will mean the SDLP will not touch the TUV with a barge pole what exactly can they do except contemplate their navels or bend over backwards to look at their own arseholes ? And there is more than enough of them 🙁

  • David Vance,

    I appreciate you have to toe the party line here, but do you not think that once the government(s)decided to not accept the DUP interpetation of the STA and rather decided to pressurize the DUP into cutting a deal with SF that this made the DUP’s position much more difficult?

    I take it you agree with the contention on Slugger, as put forward many times by Pete Baker, that SF had ‘contrived’ a crisis? If you do accept that then surely the British government must take a share of the blame for not supporting the DUP position (as per the letter of the STA) but rather opting to support SF with even the ‘Unionist friendly’ Tories joining in against the DUP?

    Nobody would suggest the DUP played a good game but it was clealry was not a level playing field.

  • Irish Stew

    Nearly crashed my car last Friday listening to Ian Paisley Jr tell Matt Cooper on Today FM’s The Last Word that the Irish Language Act was gone under the deal. Any more on this?

  • MU

    Fair comment. The essence of the current arrangements is that each time Sinn Fein want a result, as Pete Baker rightly observes, a crisis is manufactured. In this regard, the DUP were positioned but their weakness, their vulnerability, their spinelessness, has let them down and unionism down.

  • David Vance,

    then why no criticism of the British government for siding with SF?

  • Nearly crashed my car last Friday listening to Ian Paisley Jr tell Matt Cooper on Today FM’s The Last Word that the Irish Language Act was gone under the deal. Any more on this?

    Irish Stew,

    Campbell is currently listing the preventing of an ILA as one of the Dupes’ achievements:

    http://tinyurl.com/yfenja7