The truth about side deals can’t be long delayed

While Eamonn hacks a way through the thickets of unionist electoral politics, I turn back to the aftermath of the P&J debate. Those UU claims of side deals Peter Robinson called “trash,” on parading, new north-south links, the Irish language etc., what’s keeping them or do they exist? Some of them may still remain hidden from the working parties on which the UUs and the SDLP have seats, so such side deals can’t remain secret for much longer. I mean, how can you have a side deal on parading? There is a basic truth in politics conspiracy theorists like to avoid, which is that on the record counts for more in the end. On working party progress, there was conflicting evidence in Tuesday’s debate. Peter Robinson said

“I have done all that I can to encourage the Ulster Unionist Party to support the motion.I entered the process of engagement with that party, both at Hillsborough Castle and afterwards, in good faith. I wanted that party to be fully involved, and, as a result of the Hillsborough Castle Agreement, Sir Reg Empey and Margaret Ritchie are now chairing an important Executive working group on the functioning of the Executive. Good work is being done by that working group.”

But Margaret Ritchie said on the contrary

“There is a parading working group, to which the SDLP and the UUP need not apply. Elected Ministers are not allowed to see any papers, but Sinn Féin is happy to share them with the Orange Order. The Executive function and delivery working group has four-party involvement, but, after six meetings, it is going nowhere fast. There is a St Andrews unfinished business working group and an Executive backlog working group, which is chaired by the DUP and Sinn Féin but struggles to make progress.”

Who’s right? But have you noticed, Robinson made a “four party coalition” offer to the UUs and the SDLP.

“We have not been able to reach all-party agreement on those matters as yet, but last night I offered Sir Reg tangible evidence of a four-party coalition and a public assurance that the DUP would not use its votes on the Executive to override the votes of any three Ministers if they wanted a matter to be further considered. That offer was made in the context of the UUP supporting the devolution of policing and justice, and I am disappointed that it does not appear that that will happen. Nonetheless, I am prepared to repeat that offer in circumstances in which the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP approach Executive business in good faith. Whatever the outcome of the vote today, we should not be distracted from doing what is right.”

Unctuous perhaps, but what was wrong with that Reg and Margaret – or were you listening? Margaret also said an agreed Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) document was due to emerge from FMDFM onThursday, when she was due to receive a copy. Did you get it Margaret and will you share it with us in the interests of transparency?

  • dwatch

    UUP’s only MP attacks decision to vote against police devolution
    The Guardian – Sylvia Hermon, Paul Faith – ‎43 minutes ago‎
    Tories’ Ulster Unionist allies dealt another blow as Lady Herman says vote went against all she thought the party stood for http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/mar/12/hermon-attacks-uup-decision-policing

    Hermon critical of UUP policing move
    Belfast Newsletter – ‎1 hour ago‎
    THE UUP has expressed its regret after the party’s sole MP criticised MLAs for voting against policing and justice. Lady Sylvia Hermon told the BBC she was http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8564458.stm

    Hermon regret at UUP decision on policing and justice
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8564458.stm

  • Brian Walker

    Not entirely news is it?

  • Carsons Cat

    Brian,
    Maybe not shocking news, but it makes the statement on the UUP website with the headline “UUP not divided” all the more laughable.

  • Justin Case…

    EXCLUSIVE

    See below for an email which I recieved from Lady Hermon only two hours ago.

    I am very sorry indeed to have disappointed you today. Policing and Justice are still reserved at Westminster and I as the sole UUP MP would have to speak on the devolution legislation in the very near future. My position on it would have become abundantly clear then but, unfortunately, my views expressed during a PRIVATE session of the Northern Ireland Select Committee on Wednesday past were deliberately leaked to the BBC. Whilst this is in itself a very serious breach of the rules of the House of Commons, it nevertheless put me in an impossible position in terms of the BBC running the story without any input from me to try to put the story in context.

    If in doing so I have appeared to you to be on a ‘personal crusade against the Unionist Party’ I regret that greatly because it is not the case. I am profoundly upset to have caused you and others such annoyance and disappointment today.
    Kindest regards.

  • In respect of the Irish language, it took a pointed question from me on Gerry Adams blog for him to reveal some details of that side deal. I’ve since had the broad thrust of it – £20m for the Irish language, £12m of which is for the Irish Language Broadcast Fund which will kick in in 2012 when the current funding ends and £8m for other projects. That Sinn Féin is treating that £8m as their personal slush fund is undoubted given that the party has been conducting ‘partnership fora’ around the north to discuss with interest groups what’s to happen with the money. The fact that these ‘partnership fora’ aren’t open to the public or, at least, the abrasive Gaels, lends more weight to the suggestion that Sinn Féin will have the most say in where the funding goes.
    It’s status as a side deal is underlined in the fact that the Irish language wasn’t even mentioned in the text of the Agreement.

  • Harry J

    if the mutual vetoes is part of the problem with the excutive how does extending in to wee reg and margaret whatshername actually speed things up? Surely more vetoes means more things will be delayed

  • Brian Walker

    Con, who administers the Irish language fund and who the remaining £8m and under what name? I hope you keep digging.

  • So, Peter Robinson offers “a public assurance that the DUP would not use its votes on the Executive to override the votes of any three Ministers”, now let me think how many parties in the assembly have three Ministers? Mmmmmmm, would that not just be Sinn fein and the DUP?

    In other words the Dupes are offering an assurance that they won’t vote against anything brought forward by themselves, or their SF/PIRA friends and partners, as “tangible evidence of a four-party coalition”.

  • the ILBF administers the £12m – ILBF is under the auspices of Northern Ireland Screen and is headed by Maurice Hayes. The remaining £8m is in question – who administers it and what role if any are the Sinn Fein partnership fora playing in the distribution of funds. The NIO informed me that the mechanics of distributing the £8m had not been worked out.

  • Brian Walker

    Con, Very interesting – I’m sure you’ll post the decision when you learn it.

    Int Ins, try a combination of UU and SDLP ministers – and presumably eventually Alliance.