Having abandoned their first, draconian, attempt to
control regulate Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests, Sinn Féin and the DUP may now face a wider variety of emboldened dissenting voices in seeking compromise on the issue. Alex Kane has some advice for the incoming chair of the new, improved, working group on parades. From the News Letter article
If I were Mr Haass I would gather all of the parties and assorted hangers-on around the table at 9am on the first Monday morning and give them a very simple ultimatum: ‘Meet me on Tuesday morning at 9am and give me one collectively agreed, convincing, credible reason for my hanging around here for the next few weeks. Give me one simple, unambiguous piece of evidence that you – all of you – are serious about a deal. And if you can’t manage something that straightforward then shake hands with me and say goodbye. I can’t fix anything, or broker anything, if I don’t have some concrete proof that you guys are actually serious. I’ll see you in the morning: I’m off now for an Ulster fry and game of pool with Alex Kane.’
Ok, the last suggestion is optional! But my point is this: I sense no great desire on the part of any of the mainstream parties of unionism and republicanism to reach a deal. The DUP can’t sign off on anything without the support of the parading elements (and that includes the Orange Order and Bands’ Forum). This can’t simply be a DUP/Sinn Fein deal this time: and that means that the TUV, PUP and some of the newer elements of loyalism will want an input, too. Similarly, Sinn Fein has to be mindful of the ‘needs’ of dissidents and self-styled residents’ groups. In other words, this isn’t so much about finding a deal acceptable to the Assembly parties as about finding a deal acceptable to parties, groups and organisations whose main impact is on the streets.
The pressures on the two big parties, and particularly the DUP, are going to be enormous. Because they don’t trust each other (and please, forget all the nonsense about good personal relations and behind the scenes cooperation) they will give nothing to each other. They won’t/can’t make life easy for each other. They won’t/can’t stand up to the more belligerent elements from their own sides. They will, inevitably, listen to the sound of the street rather than the beat of compromise and commonsense. And that’s why Richard Haass needs proof – right from the start – that the will to construct a deal really does exist. [added emphasis throughout]
Speaking of which, while I was away, the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers published the Terms of Reference for the
Working Group Panel of Parties in the NI Executive. And here they are, for what it’s worth… [pdf file]
Terms of Reference
An independently chaired Panel will be invited to:
“Bring forward a set of recommendations by the end of 2013 on parades and protests; flags, symbols, emblems and related matters stemming from the past that will provide long-term and sustainable solutions that are in the best interests of this community and will make the peace more resilient going forward. In doing so the Group will seek the views of, and evidence from, interested stakeholders on how best to address the issues that cause community division.” [added emphasis]
The First Minister and deputy First Minister will appoint an independent Chair and Vice Chair from outside the political parties and, in addition to the First Minister/deputy First Minister representatives and the Junior Ministers, invite two nominations from the remaining Executive parties to form the Panel. [added emphasis]
The Panel will determine which stakeholders should be invited to join the Panel and which organisations should be asked to give evidence.
It will also determine how often and in what format it will meet.
The Panel will report regularly to the First Minister and deputy First Minister. It is anticipated that they will receive draft recommendations by late November or early December.
• Report including Recommendations.
• Identification of Next Steps/Future Work.
[ How many representatives is that? – Ed] 3 representatives from the DUP, 3 from Sinn Féin and 2 each from the other 3 Executive parties… [Still in control, then – Ed] Indeed, but with more people to blame than the last time…