After 9 weeks of behind-closed-doors talks, including an exclusive, super-sekrit, meeting in Downing Street with David Cameron, and a less sekrit meeting with Enda Kenny, the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers emerged blinking into the light today to inform the waiting press that…
“The core of that agreement, the substance, has already been agreed in dialogue terms between Sinn Féin and the DUP,” [Peter Robinson] said. [added emphasis]
So they haven’t put it in writing yet, never mind agreed it with the other parties…
“We have to then put it into text form in a way that can get the support of the other participating parties – because two of the three other parties, I think, do want to get an agreement they can sign up to – and the two governments.” [Peter Robinson again]
And they’re still trying to blackmail the two governments for more
fig-leaves money concessions…
“It’s still deal on, but there’s more work to be done, and a lot of that work is between the parties and the governments,” said Mr McGuinness.
Mr McGuinness said negotiations had advanced to the stage where “if the governments move as speedily as we have done, all of this could move very quickly”.
Apparently, according to Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness,
“The two governments need to live up to their responsibilities in regard to legacy, budget and outstanding commitments.
“The governments need to bring the same focus, generosity and urgency to the talks as some of the more responsible parties have if they are to be successfully concluded.”
At a rough reckoning, and assuming the governments do “move as speedily as [they] have done”, that should mean agreement by this time next year.
No wonder the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers was sounding cautious…
[Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers] said there was still no resolution on implementing welfare reform, while legacy issues “also continue to be very sensitive”.
“I think it’s increasingly urgent that we get these things settled – of course, I’d like to see them settled this week and I will be working very hard to achieve that,” she said.
Ms Villiers repeated that the government would not fund a more generous system for welfare in Northern Ireland than elsewhere.
She said this would apply to any top-up scheme that the Northern Ireland Executive might want to introduce to address the needs of anyone adversely impacted by cuts to tax credits.
As for Martin McGuinness’ less “responsible parties”…
[UUP leader Mike Nesbitt] “Be in no doubt. Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness will soon appear with a piece of paper in their hands, promising peace and prosperity in our time. That bit of paper will need to be checked very carefully, particularly the finances.
“Our children and grandchildren are already doomed to carry a huge burden of debt, born out of the mismanagement at the heart of OFMdFM since 2007. We fear the rumours are true of anything from £500m to £800m of additional borrowing.
“We will not support a plan to further mortgage our children’s future. Already, each and every one of us has over £1,000 of debt against our names, compared to £400 per capita in Scotland. That tells you all you need to know about the relative effectiveness of the devolved government coming out of Stormont Castle.
“The deal being hatched by the DUP and Sinn Féin must not sacrifice our children’s tomorrow for today’s mismanagement. That would not be a fairer deal.”
[Who will think of the children… – Ed] Indeed.