A Graduated Response?

I’ve just listened to Liam Clarke and David McCann discuss today’s developments at Stormont on BBC Evening Extra (34 mins in), and Clarke makes a good point that the DUP have played their hand pretty well over the last few days. Over the weekend it was announced that Theresa Villiers might ask David Cameron to legislate for welfare changes at Westminster as a last resort and that they have also agreed to fund the Civil Service voluntary exit scheme. There may also be further funding to pay for any body set up to deal with issues relating to the past.

However, the DUP didn’t wait for the Secretary of State to make her statement on the future of the Executive and at lunch time today Peter Robinson made the announcement that the DUP were withdrawing from it. As David noted in his most recent post on here, things do not look good for the Executive at all and if you take a much closer look at Robinson’s announcement, the DUP intend to wield a veto over pretty much any new development.

On any further meeting of the Executive:

“There will be no further meeting of the Northern Ireland Executive unless in exceptional circumstances”.

On the talks outcome:

If “satisfactory resolution in the talks is not possible….as a last resort Ministerial resignations will follow”.

On the future of the Executive following the inevitable election:

“We must make it clear that any election that follows such an eventuality will not be an election to return to the present Assembly arrangements, as we will not nominate a First Minister until a fundamental and more wide-ranging negotiation produces a system that can fully function”.

Now, by adopting this stance the DUP may well be painting themselves in to a corner here. If we are to see a return to business as usual, one of two things will have to happen: they will either have received massive concessions from Sinn Fein, which is highly unlikely; or they will have to gently row back from this pretty hard-line stance. Either way it’s looking highly unlikely that the folks on the hill will be sitting round the Executive table any time soon.