Renegotiate the St Andrews Agreement? No thanks says Sinn Fein. (Too much of a good thing)

Michelle O’Neill said over the weekend:

We are not interested in renegotiating a new deal – we don’t need one. We need the implementation of what has previously been agreed. That’s part of the problem.

The DUP have failed to implement previous agreements, the British government have failed to implement previous agreements and they have pandered to the DUP time and time again and let them away with it.

So no end to the system change they secretly agreed with the DUP and the British by which…

…the First and deputy First Ministers were originally elected by all MLAs, but under a change in the St Andrews Agreement they are now nominated separately by the largest and second largest parties.

Instead, Ms O’Neill has said it would be possible to resolve them within three weeks:

They could be if people came at it with the right attitude,” she said. They could if people showed willingness to actually adhere to the principles of the Good Friday Agreement.

I believe we could find the way forward in three weeks if people approach it with that mind-set. We are not looking to introduce a new agreement, we don’t need to spend weeks and months trying to find a way through a new agreement.

Then comes the usual shopping list of things promised but not delivered. If SF weren’t able to get these matters resolved to their satisfaction in ten years of government, getting any of them done outside government will only come at a price.

To quote Newton again:

Sinn Féin is now running to London again, demanding that changes to the status quo be imposed over the DUP’s head. If such a thing is possible, could the centre parties not agree some proposals of their own?

Otherwise this is the equivalent of periodically grabbing the football and walking off the pitch at every bump in the road. The smaller parties should at the very least make clear what the real issue is here.

  • Dan

    We need a referendum on any outcome they arrive at after their negotiations.

  • Barneyt

    I can see why many think important matters such as the language act, should have been cemented by now however, with the bedding in process, building of some level of trust, playing pass the duchie with key ministries, coping with leadership changes on the DUP side…. could you argue this got left on the back burner? The DUP through Arlene has hardened its stance on the Act and we can see they do see Irish as nothing more than a hobby that’s being foisted on unionism. Perhaps Arlene is just voicing something the DUP has til now, concealed. There is a sense that the DUP will stonewall anything with a sniff of irish association, hence SF is now going to use this opportunity to ensure previous agreements are met. If you look at this however, the window of opportunity was narrowed with the fleg issue and that deed has only served to back unionism into a corner and theyre biting back.

  • mickfealty

    We didn’t at St Andrews.

  • Gopher

    SF’s (Gerry’s) position since May 2016 is bit like waiting on a bus, hang about and there will be another one in a minute.

  • mickfealty

    It’s a prisoners dilemma. The only way to make headway is to co-operate. What we’re getting is tit for tat, composed almost entirely of punishment for defaults rather than rewards.

  • Dan

    you mightn’t have needed one, I certainly did before I offered their deal any of my support.

  • murdockp

    Taken in the context of irish culture on this island, I agree the Irish language act is important.

    Taken in the context of health care provision, helping the most vulnerable in our society, ensuring all families have a home to live in, it doesn’t even rank in the top 3 issues of the day.

  • Megatron

    Not really a prisoners dilemma as DUP seem happy enough to go to jail and stay there.

  • johnny lately

    “Too much of a good thing”

    Did Michelle O’Neill say that or is that your own personal take on it Mick as it seems pretty clear Sinn Fein are simply asking for previous agreements to be honoured.

  • johnny lately

    Prisoners dilemma ! It’s a whole different kettle of fish when your dealing with political prisoners, especially those sentenced to life imprisonment, they usually get what they want due to the fact that they’ve nothing to lose but prison officers who are the ones who have to deal with them everyday do.

  • file

    Hardly a secret deal, Mick. The method for appointing First and Deputy First Minister is in the St Andrew’s Act: http://archive.niassembly.gov.uk/transitional/info_office/Act.pdf

  • Dan

    There was an agreement to publish the inventory of weapons supposedly decommissioned.
    Don’t see SF insisting on that.

  • aperfectstorm1

    The DUPs arritude to power sharing with SF has hardened over ten years whilst its respect for the ‘Irish’ has deteriorated. Arlene is only in her post a year. In that year the DUP have ramped up their never never never no surrender approach to government. Maybe SF hoped she would be more accommodating and reasonable, most of us plebs certainly did. Instead she managed to pizz off everybody, all the parties included. Michelle is correct and she is supported fervently by nationalism of all sides, Arlene and the DUP will remain ‘stepped aside’ until they come to their senses.

  • Sharpie

    Tit for tat is the winning strategy in an absence of trust (ability to cooperate) as it produces accountability. This game though has to be seen over years rather than months. The tit for tat has been going on since before GFA. It is clear that SF provided space for DUP to demonstrate willingness to cooperate and they eschewed that continually with POC’s, the secrecy surrounding all of the corruption scandals (Red Sky, Developers, Nama, RHI) as well as the put downs (Maze, ILA), the outright hostility through sectarianism (parades, flags, Charter NI), the overt Christian conservatism (Fatal Foetal Abnormality, Pastor comments, same sex marriage), Brexit (unfathomable). These are the aggressive bits. The passive aggressive bits include not reaching out in any sense whatsoever with good will or gestures that move the unionist community towards reconciliation as all.

    They sound stuck, they have their community stuck and even victory in all of these matters is defeat for the community as a whole. Acting in your self interest to the detriment of yourself and the whole is a phenomenon in prisoners dilemma and a stupid basis for leadership.

    I am sure there is a counter argument to the list of stuff above but I guarantee you that what gives offence to the DUP fans is mostly made up of Gerry Adams and reminiscing on the old days that finished 20 years ago.

  • Zorin001

    To paraphrase Stalin “How many divisions do you have?”

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    Is it possible for us to get an inventory on what the UDA and UVF CURRENTLY have? Note the word CURRENTLY. As in the present day. As in February 2017. As in right now

  • Enda

    It’s all fine and dandy when parts of agreements suit Unionism, and the British gov, but it should be back to the negotiating table on parts that don’t.

    Very soon we’re going to see parts of the GFA eroded because of Brexit, and with Unionisms failure to live up to parts of the St Andrew’s Agreement, it increasingly looks like we’ve been peddled a dud!

    As someone who was firmly behind the GFA, it now looks like Nationalists, (and some Unionists) could be sold down the river in the coming months.

    I wouldn’t just pick up the ball and walk of the field at this stage, I’d puncture it too.

  • Dan

    I’d like to see that too.

  • johnny lately

    What agreement was that in Dan, the GFA or St Andrews ?

  • johnny lately

    Indeed Edna you’d think after hundreds of years of being duped and shafted by Perfidious Albion the Irish people would realise engaging in British politics is toxic to Irish interests but it seems we’re destined for more of the same from career politicians who are happy with the groundhog day politics that passes for democracy in this part of the world.

  • Katyusha

    Renegotiate the St Andrews’ Agreement? Why would we do that, we haven’t even implemented the last one yet.

    Oh wait, Ms O’Neill says exactly that.

    We are not interested in renegotiating a new deal – we don’t need one. We need the implementation of what has previously been agreed. That’s part of the problem.

    Straight and to the point, in bold East Tyrone fashion. I have to say I’m enjoying her leadership.

    Sinn Féin is now running to London again, demanding that changes to the status quo be imposed over the DUP’s head. If such a thing is possible, could the centre parties not agree some proposals of their own?

    They could do exactly that. Indeed, as they sit in Westminster, they are surely free to provide some proposals to Ms May’s government at any time of their choosing, whereas for SF it’s a little harder, given that they refuse to enter the national debating chamber. The opposition’s problem isn’t a lack of opportunity, it’s that they are functionally useless, stagnant, with no strategy, coherent message or goals, and are content to let the Stormont cesspit wash over them and snipe occasionally from the sidelines.

  • Dan

    The assurance was given that the inventory would be published at the end of the decommissioning process.
    We waited and waited….

  • Brian Walker

    A pretty hollow position indeed. Foster could only “stand aside” for six weeks, so a permanent new FM nomination for FM would be necessary. Will the real agenda emerge during March? Not much room for fun and games in Washington, as Enda does his lap of honour. Btw, I’m look forward to seeing how Trump reacts to the bowl of shamrock.

  • Enda

    The Irish people would be done with with Perfidious Albion, long ago, if only those descendents of the colonists of yesteryear would realize that they are Irish, and move on from there.

    I see your spell checker finds my name as foreign as many Unionists would lol 😉

  • Enda

    ….and yet the Loyalists are armed to the teeth.

  • johnny lately

    So it’s not part of the GFA or St Andrews ?

  • johnny lately

    Apologies Enda more to do with my eyesight than spellchecker.

  • Reader

    Enda: ….and yet the Loyalists are armed to the teeth.
    That’s because the republicans are expending their ammunition night after night, whereas the loyalists are saving theirs.

  • Reader

    file: The method for appointing First and Deputy Fisrt Minister is in the St Andrew’s Act
    And it contradicts the text in the Saint Andrew’s Agreement.

  • Mike the First

    Indeed – did anyone in any of the main parties complain about this post-agreement change to the St Andrews Agreement?

    Have we ever been told how it came about, and why?

  • Ray Lawlor

    (4) The nominating officer of the largest political party of the largest
    political designation shall nominate a member of the Assembly to be
    the First Minister.
    (5) The nominating officer of the largest political party of the second
    largest political designation shall nominate a member of the Assembly
    to be the deputy First Minister

    Am I right in interpreting this as follows:

    That the largest party of the largest designation gets to be First Minister?

    So in other words, for a SF first minister, the nationalist block would need to be larger than the unionist block?

    Technically, even if SF won a larger number of seats than the DUP, the DUP would still hold the First Ministers post, due to them being the largest party in the larger, unionist block?

    EDIT:

    So to be clear… the DUP and SF have changed this rule SINCE the St Andrews Agreement?

  • Enda

    it’s grand, happens all the time.

  • johnny lately

    Who murdered John Boreland and the dozens of other murders carried out in loyalist areas since the ceasefires ?

  • Enda

    Saving it for what? Do they have a convoy of black taxis in storage too?

  • Obelisk

    As long as he doesn’t empty it out over his head, wearing the bowl as a crown, we should call it a success.

  • Enda

    He might think it’s a bowl of Lucky Charms, and ask for some milk.

  • Enda

    What’s in a name?…..

    Apparently it’s a joint office with the same amount of shared authority anyway.

  • hgreen

    I don’t think the good folk of Strabane have much time for Michelle.

  • Croiteir

    Here we see the weakness of the SF position, they want to keep the failed agreement after 20 years of failure, once again they want to rejig it. It is fundamentally flawed, just like the region it was designed to placate. It is time for a radical rethink.

  • file

    Yes you are right … and not changed SINCE the St Andrew’s Agreement, it was part of the St Andrew’s Agreement.

  • file

    Does it now?

  • Ray Lawlor

    Well that’s the point…

    1) Arlene is scaremongering about an SF First Minister – which relies on voter ignorance about the nature of the shared office

    2) She knows anyway that there would need to be a fundamental shift in voting and demographics for the Nationalist block to become bigger than the Unionist one, allowing a nationalist First Minister.

    Double nonsense from Arlene.

  • Enda

    If the name of the office was changed to ‘joint first ministerial office’ it might take some of the confusion away from the electorate, but admittedly add to confusion with some foreign relations.

  • aperfectstorm1

    Why is that?

  • Ray Lawlor

    I would argue that diplomats are savvy enough to understand the recent history of Northern Ireland.

  • Enda

    The current presidential office of the USA, is what I was thinking of when writing that.

  • Ray Lawlor

    Haha! 😀

    I get you! 🙂

  • file

    Dear God, lads. Here is the text of the St Andrew’s Agreement:
    “9. Appointment of Ministers in the Executive. An amendment would be made to the 1998 Act on appointment of Ministers in the Executive. The Nominating Officer of the largest party in the largest designation in the Assembly shall make a nomination to the Assembly Presiding Officer for the
    post of First Minister. The Nominating Officer of the largest party in the second largest designation in the Assembly shall similarly nominate for the post of Deputy First Minister.”

    So no secret of Fatima, no concealing of information, just exactly as it turned up in the St Andrew’s Act. And it was to cover Paisley’s arse so that he could claim that he did not actually vote in favour of a Sinn Féin dFM.

  • file

    Foster does not need to stand aside. Sinn Féin can prevent her from being appointed in the first place by not nomination for dFM until the RHI Inquiry has reported.

  • Mike the First

    No, you’re missing a crucial clause in the St Andrews Act, section 16C(6) – if the largest party in the largest designation is not the overall largest party in the Assembly, then it’s the largest party in the Assembly that nominates the First Minister.

    There’s no mention of this in the St Andrews Agreement – it came in afterwards.

  • Mike the First

    No, guys, you’re missing a vital clause of the St Andrews Act, i.e. section 16C(6):

    “If at any time the party which is the largest political party of the largest political designation is not the largest political party –
    (a) any nomination to be made at that time under section 16A(4) or 16B(4)* shall instead be made by the nominating officer of the largest political party; and
    (b) any nomination to be made at that time under section 16A(5) or 16B(5)** shall instead be made by the nominating officer of the largest political party of the largest political designation”

    *i.e., nomination of the FM
    **i.e., nomination of the dFM

  • Mike the First

    It has, it changed between the Agreement and its enacting legislation – see above.

  • Nevin

    “So no end to the system change they secretly agreed with the DUP and the British … under a change in the St Andrews Agreement they are now nominated separately by the largest and second largest parties.”

    Were there not two changes to the initial method of selection: one in the SA Agreement and the other in the subsequent Act? I presume Bertie and Dermot Ahern would also have been party to these changes as Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs respectively.

  • Granni Trixie

    Though to many AF is unsuitable as FM not because of RHI alone but because of how she has reacted to it – looks like it brought out the worst in her. She’s neutered in her capacity to talk with authority on behalf of all the community.

  • Charlie Farlie

    Excellently articulated!

  • file

    Fairy Nuff. But hardly likely to ever happen, surely? It is just legislators covering all eventualities.

  • Brian Walker

    file, My point is to question Michelle’s line that it could be sorted in three weeks. If Arlene were to announce that she was prepared to stand aside in exchange for SFallowing the Executive to resume and the moon was made of cheese, a six weeks’ withdrawal wouldn’t take us up any date for the Coghlin report

  • Annie Breensson

    Could it be sorted in three weeks if AF resigned her position as FM?

  • mickfealty

    Where are the clusters of good behaviour? We see it clearly in civil society, what examples have we in government?

  • mac tire

    “As long as he doesn’t empty it out over his head, wearing the bowl as a crown, we should call it a success.”

    He’ll take the bowl to a press conference and announce to the fearful American public that it is a survivor of a yet unknown massacre, which was carried out by CNN or BBC. Maybe. Probably.

    It’ll be a beautiful press conference, I’m tellin’ ya. Bigly beautiful. You won’t believe it, folks.

  • Barneyt

    True but a sf fm would scare the DUP horses would it not. The word deputy also sets an order… somewhat

  • Skibo

    File and they said Britain would not vote for Brexit!

  • Skibo

    Mick I wonder what SF offered to get the Maze centre agreed yet when Peter was on holidays in Florida, he just decided it shouldn’t happen. A further example of where Unionism not being prepared to stand over agreements.

  • Barneyt

    If the DUP supported it on the basis it happens elsewhere in the uk, without looking for an unreasonable kickback, it would signal to all that change can happen. Now I know that every Irish word is treated as a bullet fired against them …. if only those words could be reined back. However, we have the now to contend with…so yes I agree

  • Barneyt

    Yep. DUP has an opportunity to play the bigger and better man here. See above

  • Reader

    file: But hardly likely to ever happen, surely?
    That extra clause is exactly why the DUP has insisted ever since that the only way to keep SF away from the first minister post is to vote for the largest unionist party – i.e. the DUP. Just voting for the unionist designation won’t do.
    And that messy extra clause is why SF have been able to say if you want a nationalist FM, you have to vote SF. Just voting for the nationalist designation won’t do.
    Mick seems quite sure that this particular briar patch was created at the behest of the two parties that have capitalised on it ever since. Certainly, neither of the parties ever complained when the StA Agreement morphed into the crucially different StA Act.

  • Reader

    hotdogx: The DUP have free reign to do whatever they want.
    Simply not true. All that the DUP can manage unilaterally is to *prevent* things from happening. They don’t have the power to *make* stuff happen without some backing in the executive.
    Of course, it’s the flavour of power that a fundamentally conservative party likes to have, but it’s not absolute power. They needed an incompetent partner to acquire that.

  • mickfealty

    That, in my reading anyway, payback for hauling down the fleg on City Hall. What they bartered for it in the first place I cannot say. Mixing the stadium and spreading the cash three ways perhaps?

  • mickfealty

    Fit for tat doesn’t work like that. One defaults the other *must* punish with another default.

  • file

    Some of those parties have MPs at Westminster and could have raised any objections when the St Andrew’s Act was being passed through parliament? Sinn Féin do not care about having a nationalist FM – they have already made it a joint position. Again, I think it very unlikely that the largest party could in reality come from the second largest designation.

  • file

    I see. So what’s your best guestimate? I reckon 6 moths before we get an Assembly again. Taking bets at 3-1 …

  • Ray Lawlor

    Thank you for clearing that up…

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Being Irish was the accepted by said descendants for centuries.

    The ‘British’only identity us a relatively recent advent.

    And still they decided to remain within the union, whilst seeing themselves as Irish.

  • Starviking

    And then SF punished the Ulster Aviation Society by vetoing their annual show at the Maze…

  • Mike the First

    According to Eamon Mailie’s updated Paisley biography, SF realised after St Andrew’s that it had missed a trick in the negotiations and the agreement, and effectively guaranteed a unionist First Minister even if they were the largest party.

    They consequently lobbied the UK Government as it framed the legislation to enact the St Andrews Agreement – i.e. what became the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006. And the Government made the crucial change to the legislation.

    The DUP knew what was going on – as you say , it was there in Parliament as the legislation passed. It didn’t propose any amendment to delete or alter the “offending” clause. The party clearly saw the opportunity it has taken at every election since to proclaim “vote for us or get a SF First Minister”.

    I agree that it’s unlikely (maybe not “very” unlikely) that the largest party could come from the second largest designation, but it is possible (unionist politics in particular has a history of division and factionalism…and arguably this was the case way back in the 1973-74 Assembly) – and this possibility is used in Assembly elections for cynical party-political effect, particularly by the DUP.

  • johnny lately

    When was the last time we Irish voted to remain in the Union AG ?

  • Thomas Mc Govern

    I am reading a recently published book on Tyrone during the Home Rule/War of Independence period , and at that time at least the Protestant/Unionists self-described as the “planter” race, the ones who subdued and pacified Ulster. They did not identify as Irish at least according to the author and all his quoted sources.

  • Skibo

    Surely the decision to halt the conflict resolution centre halted all development. If the DUP want the redevelopment to continue, they know what to do. We cannot have a concession being paid for concurrently

  • Skibo

    Mick the reduction in days of the flag flying over Belfast City Hall was a compromise as a democratic decision. Nationalism would have removed it altogether. Neutrality or shared space, is that not what the GFA was based on?

  • Skibo

    Incompetent seems a strong word. A proactive is all that is required but for that to work the main Unionist party must be prepared to act proactively also.
    They have shown so far that they are incapable of that and there lays the difficulty. How will the DUP show that following the election, if they win the FM position, how can they prove they they can be trusted. Without that trust there will be no executive.

  • mickfealty

    With whom?

  • Skibo

    Well Mick, if Unionism wanted the flag to fly every day and Nationalism wanted no flag up then we have to assume that flying on designated days is a compromise or are Unionism incapable of compromise?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Not sure Johnny, why do you ask?