Is the arrival of Cameron and Kenny more than part of a tired old ritual?

 The credibility and effectiveness of the devolved institutions is on the line, writes  David Cameron.

Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy  warned if a deal isn’t done then the Northern Executive will “crash”.

“The implications are that the Executive can’t continue to function. You go into a crash and you go back to an election and let the public decide how the issues are resolved, Peter Robinson said last week.

SDLP negotiator Alban Maginness, reflecting some expectations of a limited deal, said that “partial” agreement would not be acceptable.

If bottom line rhetoric was the measure of success, we would be in nirvana long ago. It would be far more encouraging if there were a few meaty leaks about progress on any theme other than more rattling of the begging bowl. Some of the argument is circular. More powers will come if they are able to exercise the ones they’ve got. The mood music may be cautiously optimistic but what is there to back it up?

Politicians and the media seem to be sleep walking through old rituals.  The Americans can spare a retired semi-disgraced  presidential runner to chair talks. Do you really  think they care?   The prime ministers turn up in a faInt echo of the GFA, feeling  they have to be seen to try something for a whole 12 hours. How much clout has Enda Kenny who as taoiseach is the traditional guarantor of the nationalist interest, when he not David Cameron is Sinn Fein’s bitterest political opponent?

What are the parties’ hope of leverage in a situation of unprecedented uncertainty after the UK election in May? Are Sinn Fein being at last tempted  to take their seats at Westminster  to join the SNP  in  leverage with a  Labour government?  What would the DUP want it order to support the Conservatives?  The time for bargaining has not been reached and the prospects of significant influence and delivery are in any case slight given the present state of political fragmentation in England. There are too few NI seats are to make the crucial difference.

At this latest crossroads two things seem obvious.  Agreement on such a sweeping agenda would be tantamount to an end to sectarian politics and is either absurdly over ambitious or risks being so vague as to be virtually meaningless in practice. The urgent matters are ending the budget deadlock and closing down Camp Twaddell. Yet more unionist splits over parades are hardly encouraging .

On dealing with the past , information on a new police unit to replace the Historical Enquiries Team is sketchy.  Their opening tasks to examine OTRs and Bloody Sunday, are basically politically reactive and a waste of energy. There is no sign of treating victims purely on the basis of need or helping them reach closure on the basis of existing usually sketchy evidence. Nor does it seem likely that the British government wishes to throw open its archives further or that paramilitaries will end omerta.

So what are we left with? We’ll discover before the weekend.



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  • Ernekid

    Would it be that big of a crisis if the Assembly collapsed and we had fresh elections to coincide with the General election in May?

    Does anyone care any more?

  • Redstar2014

    You are 100% on the money Ernekid.

    This pointless self serving corrupt sham is valuable only to the gravy train passengers up on the hill

  • Dan

    It’s a pathetic spectacle overall. Week after week these incompetents are allowed to bank a wage, are indulged on TV and there is simply no requirement for them to produce results……and we all pay for it.
    Close it down,before they do any more damage.

  • Redstar2014

    Agreed Dan. Am not up on the actual statistics but certainly there’s a feeling that we are fast approaching the point where most people dont vote anymore

  • streetlegal

    As we have seen, Martin McGuinness would agree to anything to hold on to his office. So he would have no problem with finding a way to implement the Tory welfare cuts and the austerity agenda. Others in Sinn Fein have taken a harder line and it will not be easy for them to concede this ground.

    But of course it won’t come to that – because Peter Robinson isn’t in a position to agree to anything as the DUP are determined not to conclude any further agreements ( for agreements read concessions ) with Sinn Fein.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Yup but make sure to cut the number of seats per constituency. And cut again next time around if no progress made.

  • Redstar2014

    Ahh, remember the days the Shinners considered their politics as radical, even revolutionary.

    Alas now its conservative right wing establishment policies- the latest being the grotesque Corp Tax-

    Yip its chauffeur driven cars, highly paid jobs for kin and doffing the hat as instructed by London. Times change.

  • Zeno1

    Maybe a collapse and an election now would suit the DUP better than one in 2016. I have a feeling SF would really like one in 2016.

  • Robin Keogh

    Kenny and Camerons imput will be negligable. Lets face it neither of them carry the same Razzamatazz that Bertie and Tony did, moreover neither are as bothered about de nort as their predecessors were. Political stalemate at Stormont is going to be par for the course until such time as we have a vote on Unity. SF simply cant impose the welfare cuts, the southern media will destroy them and Robbo has to keep looking over his shoulder while the TUV and UKIP bite at the heals of a fractured DUP. There will be somesort of an agreement that will end up being used as toilet paper by bored civil servants exaperated by political Unionisms incompetence. As for the voting public; improved living standards and individualism will continue to keep many of them away from the polling booth, the same as every other western democratic society. A collapsed assembly will do nothing but allow an indifferent public to reinstate the same bodies up on the hill.

  • StevieG

    I was having difficulty in remembering what these talks are about, who are to benefit from them, and what relevance they have to me and NI/GB/RoI as a whole.

    So, I looked them up…

    – Flags (irrelevant to most people and used as a means to voice some view or annoyance that those involved in are unable to articulate, with which their ‘representative’ are unable to help, and the resulting trouble for which the the DUP have to accept significant (ir)responsibility for stirring up). Take them all down, put them all up, take them to the toilet – to me, they tell me what minority ‘type’ of person you are that I do not want around/be around.

    – Marches (irrelevant to most people – though I feel noone should be allowed to ride roughshod over others for triumphalist reasons and it is a small minority of marches that cause the trouble – ban them if no agreement can be had and move on to the next year and the next year ad infinitum if required

    – ‘The Past’ – you cannot change it (sorry, supercilious but I don’t know what if any satisfaction will be gained from talking about how to handle it, though it does not appear to prevent many from trying to change it!). What we have now in Stormont leaves a bad taste in the mouth given those in ‘power’ do have a past that understandably if I was them I would likely want to change as well. However, no solution will satisfy all and the worst case would be some whitewash of a generalisation and obsfucation of the nasty deeds committed under some [insert ism here] banner – and we move on regardless.

    I say let the executive fail. We do not need a government here – we need an administration – education, infrastructure, investment (and not corporation tax!), clear strategy and managed direction. We have already paid the price for the GFA. Up to now, I think in balance it is fair, but now we have to stop paying in all sorts of ways – one of these is in pandering to the egos of the irrelevant politicians on the hill

    So, who benefits from these talks?

    Seems to me it is SF/DUP and others in their own ‘bubble’ who are on the ‘pigs back’ given where they have a direct benefit in stretching these talks out for their own and hangers-on interest. Who wouldn’t want free money! Set them up for next year?

    Who are they for?

    No idea. Can someone enlighten me? Why even are Kenny/Cameron here? Do the MPS even understand the position that most care little for them? Who cares in their respective electorates?

  • Zig70

    The aim of SF has to be demonstrating that Stormont is an irrelevant mess and in that they have overwhelmingly succeeded. Get rid because it can’t function against the attrition. We don’t need councils and a large law making body. Any laws they have made have been flawed anyway.

  • Practically_Family

    It’s problematic only insofar as it destabilises the “democratic route” for those who had to be convinced to take it.

  • Kevin Breslin

    “How much clout has Enda Kenny who as taoiseach is the traditional guarantor of the nationalist interest, when he not David Cameron is Sinn Fein’s bitterest political opponent?”

    We saw the picking your battles philosophy working in the unionist Better Together group, if Sinn Féin and the Irish Government and the SDLP can pick their battles then yes there can be some co-operation on what may be common ground. Grandstanding for any of these groups will be ridiculous.

    Here’s a few baseline suggestions what clout the Irish Government can and need to bring:

    Flags & Parades: Next to nothing, these are local disputes and should not be tackled at a distance. All the Irish government should do is highlight any issues regarding parades and flag disputes within the Republic as example cases, and the British government and devolved Assemblies could do likewise. My opinion the executive ministers should not be involved, these should be debated at civic and local government levels. Basically a page on how Rossnowlagh passes off in a sane and sensible manner without needing to grandstand and create impasses.

    Institutional Reform: They don’t have a mandate in the Assembly, the Northern groups don’t have the mandate to change things down South either. Only issue they should tackle is on Cross border bodies and intergovernmental meetings which in my view are the most functional part of the Agreement institutions. One reform would be merging the cross-border Food Advisory body with an overall Health body that will facilitate information around cross-border health services.

    Irish Language/Ulster Scots: The cross border language body should insist on an Irish and Ulster Scots language Act and allow for a cross border co-operation with the Ulster Scots “Bord” to study the old Anglic lingustic heritage of Scots, Fingalian etc. throughout Ireland.

    Legacy Issues: Yes the Irish government should be the guarantor of the Irish nationalist population, but it also needs to deal with unionist criticisms of its actions and in-actions while bringing its own issues around bringing to justice those who committed the Dublin-Monaghan bombings in return. Facilitating a cross-border inquiry into institutional and paramilitary sexual abuse.

    Welfare Reform: My guess any deal on this issue would be around a Welfare Plus system the concessions and with a mitigation fund. There’s only one thing the Irish government can effect here and that is cross-border Welfare arrangements: It would be tough to change the cross-border welfare arrangements set in place but this is more a North-South Ministerial body thing.

    Budget: My own suggestions would be a ring-fenced capital investment plan to end of term that prioritizes the key cross border investment issues, a combined UK/ROI/EU funded Peace Investment Bank to assist the development of integrated education, demolition of peace-walls, cross community projects open to public tender and run independently i.e. not by the NI government or British or Irish ones either.

    Did I leave anything out?

  • Dan

    Having heard the derisory maximum sentence given to that scumbag who killed the pensioner in Coleraine, I’d say the number one item on the agenda up there tonight should be to change the law to ensure the sentence can be increased to fit his vile crime.

  • barnshee

    “Get rid because it can’t function against the attrition”

    Suits me just love the thought of Marty and co arriving at the dole office– Occupation ? er politician? sorry no vacancies– here`s your (£70+ a week) dole money Have you considered selling the big issue.

    And that why it won`t fall–too many snouts in too many troughs -and few of the snouts have a fall back position/career..

  • Neil

    Don’t think that’s right. SF won’t want to be working towards an irrelevant NI election where the same people vote for the same rossetted donkeys producing the same result. They want to be focussing their energies on basking in the reflected glory of the rising centenary. The south is the real game for the shinners now.