Belated admissions from both of Northern Ireland’s top politicians…

Things I thought I’d never hear in public… 1, Peter Robinson admitting that unionists were too slow on accepting power sharing; and Martin McGuinness admitting that he and his party dobbed Trimble in with those unfulfilled promises to decommission IRA weapons before the November 2003 Assembly election…

Nice to hear it, finally, from the horses’ mouths… now the danger’s passed…

  • A fair bit of revisionism going on there with the DUP spokesman trying to rewrite the history of the sunningdale agreement. They were simply opposed to any nationalists being in Stormont full stop, but were gifted the figleaf they used to cover for that sectarian based refusal. The gift was the toothless council of Ireland which Dublin only paid lip service to, and which even the sdlp were split over.Anadmission [not directly from Robinson but DUP anyway, was that the DUP were in league with the UDA intimidation during the strike which brought the 1974 executive down. They were unable to repeat this strike tactic[or even the threat of one] due to Paisley’s failed attempt in 1977.

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed Daniel.

    As I say it is now safe to dump some of the baggage of the past. I really wish Richard Delevan had kept up his SicNotes blog, where he famously invoked Wittgenstein’s Ladder (pulling it up after the first implausible axiom has been) achieved…

    I asked both these parties about both these issues back in 2004 and got a flat nothing from SF and a flat denial from DUP, even an inference that I was misremembering the past…

  • andnowwhat

    Do you know what haunts my worst fears about what happened Mick? That the whole thing was a fek’n pantomime to allow a certain good Rev to be king for a day.

    There was a blink and you missed it moment on H&M when David Mc Narry mentioned unionists admitting to what they did in the past. Whilst such behaviour could not justify what happened for over 30 years, they were certainly a part of the kindling of the fire that raged.

    As I recall, was not part of the delay in decommissioning down to certain people wanting triumphalist photos etc. of weapons being destroyed, certain persons that went in to government with the shinners?

  • That’s my reading of it as well, Kal. Paisley craved the respectability from Westminster as he needed a rewriting of his legacy, and Peter Hain, Blair et al were only too happy to indulge him as it meant getting their own place in the history books. I’ve never read the Sicknotes blog, Mick, so I’m at a slight disadvantage on that reference. It’s not suprising you got a blank from both these parties. Robinson just ignored Noel Thompson’s question about H&W being a cold house for catholics during the titanic interview so no surprise there.I became eligible to vote in the year of sunningdale elections but too late to vote in them..

  • dwatch

    Martin is up to another one of his games. SF cannot achieve a UI by 2016, so lets try and get rid of Owen Paterson the Sect of State in the mean time.

    McGuinness calls for end to UK link

  • Reader

    danielmoran: A fair bit of revisionism going on there with the DUP spokesman trying to rewrite the history of the sunningdale agreement. They were simply opposed to any nationalists being in Stormont full stop, but were gifted the figleaf they used to cover for that sectarian based refusal.
    The Sunningdale Executive ran for several months with majority support in both communities and with no Council of Ireland. It’s not like the Council was then imposed in order to give the DUP types a retrospective excuse; the CoI was a nationalist demand, it crippled unionist engagement without getting anywhere near bringing republicans on board.

  • Reader. If as you say, the executive ran for the four and a bit months without the CoI, what excuse did unionists have not to carry on with the executive? How did the CoI cripple unionist engagement after five months since it wasn’t imposed. Face it, they didn’t want Fitt and Hume in govt but were too cowardly to give their real motive for walking out.

  • pauluk

    Martin’s doting. He didn’t dump Trimble. The Unionist electorate did. Why would SF want rid of those they gained so much from? The DUP drove a far harder bargain with SF than the UUP ever did. Kudos to Martin, nonetheless, for making it all sound so plausible.

  • Mick Fealty

    Fraid not Paul.

    Go back and look at the 2003 election result.

    There was only three seats between the UUP and the DUP. What shifted the few votes that made the difference at that time, was the failure of Trimble to get any form of decommissioning out of the IRA 18 months after the advertised deadline (ring a bell from later in the process?)…

    The admission that SF told Trimble one thing, then did another is well worth bookmarking…

  • JoeBryce

    My theory is that SF wanted rid of Trimble because his vision “To build up a new Northern Ireland” was an explicitly unionist (small ‘u’) vision. It was UK oriented. Paisley’s Ulster nationalism was much more to SF’s taste and indeed quite genuinely (if bizarrely) offered a long term prospect of common ground between the two traditions. At the time I was appalled by this. Now, given Scotland’s trajectory away from if not out of the UK, I come to suspect that the right outcome was achieved, albeit by doubtful means. The pity would be if this obscured Trimble’s extraordinary courage. There is one politician who staked, and ultimately lost, all, in order to do the right thing. I confess there is none I admire more.

  • Mick Fealty

    My own take at the time was that it was entirely reasonable to come to the view that dealing with anyone inside Unionism with a large, well organised and disruptive force outside it (i.e., the DUP) was not good politics.

    Trimble made the pace, and shaped the deal that the DUP would later broadly endorse, but it’s easy to forget now just how close it was after that election and how unstable (10 or 12 votes in the UUC, when that body mattered to more than just the party faithful) everything was within before it.

  • carl marks

    SF believed that Ian Paisley would be more malleable than Trimble, big Ian always courted the press and grabbed whatever honours he could get.
    The peerage handed out to his good lady which came out of the blue and must be the only one ever given to anyone for being a housewife (an honourable job but not the traditional route to a seat in the lords) was just the first of the encouragements handed out to him by the British gov.
    When it became obvious to him that his party would be the largest in any new government the never word disappeared and he took what was offered in the GFA with both hands.
    In short the Shinners did shaft Trimble but Jeffrey and Arlene delivered the death blow which was I suspect coordinated by the DUP.

  • Ultonian

    To those who remember, Trimble was irascible, awkward and hamstrung by the likes of Donaldson etc. He was always looking over his shoulder at the democratic body he was answerable to the UUC and was unable to enforce discipline in his party. So his policies were shaped by 900 individual members, as opposed to a group of paid supporters. He also knew what sort of NI he wanted to create – clearly a UK centric version, based on a new pluralist Unionism, at ease with in the UK.

    Paisley on the other had was self centred, power hungry and with a fuzzy vision of the new Ulster, his Ulster would not be centred in the UK and certainly was never going to be pluralist nor progressive. But he was also straight forward in his approach, with little real political guile. Although behind him were men who, by some reports, were already talking off-line with Sinn Fein by 2003 and certainly before Leeds Castle. So Sinn Fein knew there were no principles in the way, all they needed to do was to ditch Trimble.

    Clearly Peter Robinson was a man in a hurry to gain power and short of a photograph he would have settled for the undisclosed Leeds Castle deal.

    St Andrews was a farce of media hype and performing poodles. Peter Robinson was power mad and the whole effort at St Andrews was concentrated on Ian Paisley’s ego. The rest they say is history.

    And yet, today we still see the effects of St Andrews, Peter Robinson is still focused on power. So much so that he appears to be reversing the entire catalogue of die in the ditch DUP principles and policies all for the sake of his place in the West Wing.

    Ultimately as Tony Blair was Margaret Thatcher’s legacy, clearly Peter Robinson is David Trimble’s or maybe if Martin McGuiness is to be believed, Peter Robinson is his legacy!

  • Reader

    danielsmoran: How did the CoI cripple unionist engagement after five months since it wasn’t imposed. Face it, they didn’t want Fitt and Hume in govt but were too cowardly to give their real motive for walking out.
    You haven’t even explained why they walked *in*. And stayed in for months.
    From Jonathan Bardon’s History of Ulster: “…at a crucial meeting of the UUC, a motion to reject the ‘proposed all-Ireland Council settlement’ was carried by eighty votes. The ground cut from beneath his feet, Faulkner had no choice but to resign as unionist leader… Not only did the vicious cycle of murders, shootings and bombings maintain its momentum, but also demonstrations and protest riots greeted every public attempt to set the Council of Ireland in motion”.
    The Council of Ireland was not invisible and irrelevant, it was clearly a deal breaker, as Fitt and Devlin realised, but Hume did not.

  • reader; As I said, the SDLP was split. As for why ‘they’ walked in? Some of them walked in. In the end the British govt could have done what Heath did in ’72 at ANY point since ’22. They wanted the world to think they had got rid of Ireland completely. They had the powers all all along and any predessesor of Heath in nr 10 since 1922 could have cancelled Stormont. They chose not to, and in 1969 they found the sectarian colony came back to bite them on the arse and they had to commit their army to staunch the damage from their negligence to then.