Just under the surface of Mark Devenports latest blog, an atmosphere of extreme nervousness is wafting across the water over the fate of the agreement to devolve Justice – witness Nigel Dodd’s backhanded plea for UU support. Quite unnecessarily, unionism seem to be rushing once again to impale itself on a barbed wire fence on this touchstone issue and risking the fate of the Assembly for doubtful party advantage. “Pantomime” is indeed the word for it. The unionist public who want at least a measure of unionist unity are of course ignored. Does David McNarry speak for Reg, does anybody know, including Reg? Only Ian of the Damascus Road is rising to the level of events, a sentence I never thought I’d type. The Ulster Unionists are playing naked politics so blatantly that its hard to take them seriously. Lets say its no deal and theres an Assembly election, whats the UU platform? A phoney equation between the devolution of Justice and the school selection deadlock on which they havent got a practical position? And after the election, why should the cross community politics be any different? Do any UUs really believe that if by some chance they were restored as the largest unionist party that the political realities would be transformed? No deal on either and the Assembly falls would be the most likely outcome. Only this time, the UUs would be left holding the very sick baby. This is the politics of the rattle in the pram.
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