I’ll be reviewing political scientist Mary-Alice Clancy‘s new book, Peace Without Consensus – Power Sharing Politics in Northern Ireland, in due course. But, for now, The Guardian‘s Henry McDonald has highlighted some of the content
White House staff and Irish officials were exasperated that Blair and his Downing Street chief-of-staff, Jonathan Powell, were prepared to allow Sinn Féin to run community restorative justice programmes and effectively establish a parallel justice system, according to a new book on Bush and the Irish peace process.
Blair and Powell’s willingness to hand over policing powers almost scuppered the historic deal at St Andrews in 2006 that led to the establishment of the current power-sharing government, senior White House staff told the author.
The cornerstone of that deal was that Sinn Féin had to sign up to fully support the police and judicial system in Northern Ireland before Democratic Unionists would join it in government.
The Bush administration regarded the Blair government’s attitude to ongoing IRA crimes and violence as “absolutely insane”, historian Mary-Alice Clancy’s book claims.
One senior, unnamed member of the Bush administration describes the alternative justice system originally proposed by Sinn Féin in the run up to St Andrews as “autonomous thugocracies” and a “scandal”. Leading Sinn Féin members had been arguing that its justice programme was a “viable alternative” to conventional policing and justice systems.
To the Americans, the programmes run in republican areas, in which people could report crime to paramilitaries rather than police, were “antithetical to the larger strategy of removing excuses from the DUP to share power by getting republicans to recognise the rule of law in both word and deed”.
The Americans “never understood” how Powell in particular believed he could get a deal without Sinn Féin’s formal endorsement of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Bush administration officials told the author.
All of which casts an illuminating light on the activities of Community Restorative Justice, funded by Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies until 2005, as detailed in a Radio 4 Law in Action programme in March 2008.
And the subsequent [April 2008] declaration by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams that the Provisional IRA would not be “[dealing] with anti-social behaviour and criminality” in nationalist areas following the May 2008 return of the NI Assembly.
More recently others have attempted to do just that…