Who is responsible and what’s at stake in the Assembly standoff

David McKittrick emerges from retirement to pass a magisterial verdict on the Assembly in the Newsletter, while the paper has just run a long and fascinating interview with David Trimble by Alex Kane.

His view of the history since 1998 is not a million miles from the familiar saying that Sinn Fein were  clever enough to play their weaknesses to advantage while unionists were too stupid and bigoted to realise that  they’d won.

Presumably recorded before the latest developments in the Assembly crisis, Trimble’s analysis the present situation nevertheless focuses on the leadership shortcomings of both Sinn Fein and the DUP.   The present impasse he sees essentially as a failure of leadership on both sides rather than the system itself and offers lessons from his own mistakes  (purely tactical ones, though).  Today he regards both sides as victims of their own disingenuousness.

His solution, for the UK national parties to organise and stand, will no doubt get another outing if the Assembly collapses. While it might offer a broader alternative to unionists, it does little for nationalists however moderate. It is surely a mistake to read lack of enthusiasm for Irish unity as positive support for the Union. Trimble of course fully realises this and therefore seems prepared to contemplate a community in which the dream of integration lapses in favour of different  national identities  remaining its defining characteristic.  This is surely what’s at stake if the Assembly system is abandoned. While we have yet to confront the consequences of collapse, greater polarisation can hardly be discounted.

AK: There have been two phases of the process so far. The 1998-2003 phase and then 2007-now. Neither of them seems to have worked. Do you see a time when this process and the institutions will work?

DT: You don’t have to change the structures or the architect to make it work. All you have to do is get the two party leaderships to come to terms with themselves and the situation they’re in.

AK: How likely is that? How likely is it that they can ‘man up,’ admit that they didn’t want to be where they’ve found themselves, but agree to now make the best of it?

DT: McGuinness is capable of doing that. I don’t know about Robinson.

AK: What about Robinson’s possible successor, maybe in a few months time?

DT: He would have retired before now if he was able to get anyone to take the job! Anyway, because the leadership of the party can’t give an honest account of how it got where it is and Robinson spends half his time barking at republicans and denouncing them, he feeds that mindset.

You’re not going to see a change of attitude in the DUP until you see it coming from the leadership first. And that doesn’t appear to be on the horizon at the moment. But yes, the public are getting quite irritated with the politicians and unfortunately that also means getting irritated with Stormont – and that’s not a healthy state of affairs.

Also, because republicans are not giving an honest account of how they got where they are they are having trouble with their grassroots and supporters, who are saying, “you were fighting for a united Ireland and now you’re in Stormont, so how are you going to get it”?

And Sinn Fein is replying, “demography and taking power north and south” – which isn’t working. And some of them thought that the decision to create a Scottish Parliament in 1997 would lead to the break-up of the UK which would play into their hands … I’m not following [Scotland] that closely. I prefer to keep myself detached …

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  • Kevin Breslin

    I think people who propose the “national parties” standing is going to add radical ideas into the region, don’t really look at how the “national parties” have been put to one side by the SNP’s ground up growth in Scotland, or why the “national parties” formed the Ulster Unionists in the first place.

  • Granni Trixie

    I’m not a great fan of Trimble as a rule but good for him in actually identifying unionist sectarianism/bigotry, something unionists tend to be in denial about. Will current unionist leaders do likewise and allocate resources to address?

  • Paddy Reilly

    Unionists were too stupid and bigoted to realise that they’d won.

    Unionists spent decades fighting tooth and nail the possibility that they would have the SDLP in the cabinet. And ended up sharing power with Sinn Féin. But what they did win was 20 years of (relative) peace during which the prospect of a United Ireland would be put on the long finger. Which of course is very nearly up, which is why second thoughts are being had.

  • chrisjones2

    Another nail in the coffin today with the NAMA allegations and the shameful attempts to stop Bryson appearing. Its so bad they FEAR the ‘village idiot’

    “Out, damn’d spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then
    ’tis time to do’t.—Hell is murky.—Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, and
    afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our
    pow’r to accompt?—Yet who would have thought the old man to
    have had so much blood in him?”

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I don’t think it’s because they fear Bryson, I think it’s because inviting someone like that along to a serious inquiry will discredit it.

    Bryson has nothing except a series of unsubstantiated allegations and innuendo. If he had anything of serious import, he’d publish it.

  • Brian Walker

    The macro point is whether NI aspires to integration ( not the same as uniformity) or continues with zero sum identity politics as the default. The Assembly may have institutionalised the divide but can the divide be narrowed without it? All else is fluff.

  • chrisjones2

    Read his blog. A lot may be rubbish but he broke the tapes story on line.Whoops it seems he was right. Clearly someone is feeding him so would be useful to see why and who

    As for a serious inquiry at Stormont – your faith is touching

  • Granni Trixie

    I don’t think the committee has any choice but to hear from Bryson. I read his blog to scoff but my attitude came to change as he has clearly been fed detailed information from well Informed sources who want to dynamite a certain party and individual(s).

    This is why on an earlier post I suggested that the timing of the UUP move from government was opportunistic not “Principled ” as its leader claimed.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Honestly I think the divide can be narrowed without the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

    The Conservatives with Liberals created the UUP in the first place, the fact they can’t get on with them now shows a lack of “unity” between these groups anyway. The UUP were a party of Conservative backbenchers and a few shadow frontbenchers.

    The fact these national parties are not successful here is more their loss than ours to be honest. Throughout the entire Union, Ireland and Northern Ireland has had 2 unelected Prime Ministers, but only 2 elected cabinet positions. There’s a population reality and a situation reality that can’t be ignored.

    The last GB (i.e. English, Scottish or Welsh) politician to win a Nobel Peace Prize was in 1959, so if they have something different to offer from the Peace People, Hume and Trimble they should live it out.

    If you want a good example of zero sum identity politics coming from Westminster, may I quote Winston Churchill …

    “We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English.”

    Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/winstonchu111312.html#Y5BUwkL4EGJ4kBOE.99

    And to be honest, it’s perhaps the oddity of the place rather than any sectarianism, that is the major problem for many of the “national parties” . It is that it bothers them that this region is “odd” that is the problem not some altruistic concern about so-called identity politics being damaging here.

  • Kev Hughes

    Wow, a main stream unionist admitting that unionism hasn’t come to terms with Sinn Fein. Kensei has said this, I’ve said this at length, Chris Donnelly too. Until unionism actually accepts SF isn’t going away then this shite and nonsense will continue.

  • chrisjones2

    By the way Brian asked ‘who is responsible”?

    ALL of them are

  • chrisjones2

    Whats to come to terms with?

    From a Unionist standpoint SF is all Republican Green Fur Coat and in the end No Knickers. Defeated militarily they played a good hand against a desperate PM then buggered up the peace. Its arguable that they have done more to lock their community into penury than the UUP ever did

    They oversold the old United Ireland thing to their community, failed to refresh the leadership and move on and left the nutter wing free to murder people and drag them all down. …. Castlereagh ………….Stormontgate …….. Florida ……..McCartney ……… Quinn ……..the rapes ……the rapes ………..Mcguigan …………. mistake after mistake ….. you would have thought by now that someone would be asking who some of these people are really working for they re so good at messing up the Masterplan

    Now SF are trapped by their own hubris. They haven’t moved their hard green electorate on and have left it all in a seething mess while they suckle on the ample teat of British financial ‘oppression’ and Gerry and his trampolining Labrador mumble words and woofs of wisdom to gullible Southern voters.

    And when you can get away with opposing water charges while simultaneously your commercial associates dump toxic waste into the supply, why wouldn’t you? Perhaps the new line will be, sure its so poisonous you wouldn’t pay for for it.

    On reunification the next step will be probably be an “end British Occupation sod by sod campaign” where they will offer Southerners and Rich American Supporters the chance to buy back NI square foot by square foot with a presentation sod cut from a genuine Northern Bog in a Genuine Irish plastic box (warning – sod may contain small bone fragments ) with the prospect of buying back the whole of de Nurth by 2316

  • Kev Hughes

    Bless you Chris. I’m still waiting for your response on the ECHR and why you don’t like it (I remind you that you couldn’t tell me why you disliked it either).

    When I get that I’ll see you as an actual serious commentator and I’ll engage you. Until then I ignore all of your posts and refuse to engage someone with a single transferral comment

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I’m sure that sources in the DUP were briefing Bryson against Peter Robinson. And the other source is the tapes made by Graham’s bookmakers, which were probably heard by a journalist who in turn passed information on what was in them to Bryson.

    Aside from that, the claims that he made were all very circumstantial. Two people being in the same place at the same time, etc. Nothing that you could ever convict someone over.

    The Graham testimony suggests that at the end of this, a number of senior business professionals (accountants, solicitors, business consultants and the like) stand to lose their jobs. Bryson didn’t really deal with this, focussing on the Robinson element.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    he broke the story that tapes existed. He’s yet to publish any detail on their content. Why not ? Because he probably didn’t have them in his possession and was passed a summary of the allegations therein by a journalist.

    You are the person who implied that the committee inquiry was serious by suggesting that people were afraid of Bryson’s testimony.

  • Granni Trixie

    I do not agree with your interpretation of the claims or that politicians will not also be damaged in the fall out.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Faulkner and the UUP accepted power-sharing with the SDLP and Alliance.

    Funny how Jim Allister and his friends in the DUP weren’t moaning about the need for an opposition, when it was clear that their party would be the ones that were in it.

  • chrisjones2

    What question on ECHR …I cant see any trace of that? I dont dislike ECHR at all. You may have me confused with someone else. I am told that happens with age

  • chrisjones2

    The Committee is the usual rag bag. Some are serious in wanting to weaponise Bryson. some desperate to stop him giving evidence. Some DUPpers in the House will be keen to see him appear as it looks like the material he has comes from DUP sources ie there is a heave on

  • chrisjones2

    Oh come on. Noone here, no matter how incompetent, deceitful , sectarian or corrupt EVER loses their jobs unless they achieve ‘sacrificial goat’ status

  • chrisjones2

    I suspect that Joe Public doesnt care. Politicians do because they crave power and status and money

  • Kev Hughes

    Have at it Chris, I believe you said:

    ‘In terms of responsibilities give me a week and I will give you a detailed answer’


    You post so much nonsense these days you seemingly can’t keep track of it via your disqus account?

  • chrisjones2

    Wow. You have let that fester for 4 months have you. I have to say that that is really sad. You must be a lawyer or accountant. I assume you keep a little tabulated list of points won vs points lost cross referenced against individuals. With you are referee deciding the win / lose issues.

    As for the question you refer to you asked for a detailed gap analysis between the ECHR and some British Bill of Rights that might be passed to replace it. Having looked at it again its impossible to answer and as i made clear again and again, the fundamental issue was more which set of judges make the decision on HR issues and in what legal framework they make them. That further complicates the issue of the differences because in part it will depend on the judges views.

    If you want an example look at immigration law in the UK. There are lots of cases now on right to family life that end up with career criminals winning rights to remain in the UK despite any UK legislation. In a UK Based system the judges decisions might be quite different.

    As for the quality of my posts well that too is a matter of opinion. At least you read them to make them vex you.

    Can you please provide me with a detailed critique with each ‘wrong’ or deficient post listed in order and tabulated according to your concerns. I will then carefully consider it before ignoring it but I suspect it will make you happy ….indeed I fear you may already have prepared it

    The great advantage is that on Slugger you can ignore the rantings of people you find boring or whose views don’t massage your own ego. I suggest you do that

  • Kev Hughes

    Nice man playing chum, but we all know the point made, you’re an empty vessel with a single transferable rant who, in the words of Danny Trejo in Anchorman, is stinking this place out with your craziness.

    Have I let it fester? As someone who comments infrequently I merely remember my one dealing with someone who feels compelled to comment on absolutely everything and ranted to me and when asked to back it up couldn’t, he asked for a week to back up his rant. Hilarious.

    Like most, I skim past your comments as they’re the ramblings of a poor soul. Try going out today, it might do you the world of good. Slugger will still be here when you come back 🙂

  • chrisjones2

    As in life, different people here seem to read to different levels. So skim away. The intellectuals here can read the detail and make up their own minds