Left to themselves, the parties won’t agree. The time has come for the governments to bring forward solutions which involve the people directly

Observed from London, the political atmosphere at home is surreal.  The volume of comment on the talks is in inverse proportion to hard information. Expectations of agreement by Good Friday are so low that  the local media can barely be roused from torpor. Emergency action for feeding the Stormont cats occupied more space in the Belfast Telegraph the other day.  Further emergency action to fund the regional government must be taken within a week followed by the crunch decision to hold another election or introduce direct rule.  No clear idea of the “reasonable time” allowed for the talks to continue has emerged yet.

Key elements of power sharing 

The legal procedure for dealing with breakdown has proved unhelpful.  The provision for a quick second election was designed as a sword of Damocles to concentrate minds on a solution. But our parties have never reacted quickly to external pressure.  Dribbling out decisions about the talks timetable  is a poor basis for acclimatising voters to any change of position  even if the parties  wanted to make it , and they’re left with little choice but to dig their heels in for fear of  losing votes within a very few weeks .  The circumstances are tailor made to increase suspicions of ulterior motives and are no way to build trust.

We can see now that almost twenty years since its creation and through many upheavals, the political strike remains the default of the power sharing system.  It’s double or quits without much flexibility. Governments must be formed by the two largest parties. If one of them quits, the governments falls.  In any normal system, even one dominated by coalitions, the other parties would have a chance of forming another government. Only if they failed would another election be called, usually after more than one option had been tried. This basic element of representative democracy is absent in Northern Ireland.

In theory a voluntary coalition with a weighted majority could be formed – if only  just – in SF’s or the DUP’s absence. It would be no ideal solution but it would deny any single party a veto on the Assembly’s existence. The DUP were once in favour, but when faced with it, would turkeys vote for Christmas?

“Standing aside” by a first minster  has been a pressure instrument  of power sharing almost from the beginning , although only now has it become a weapon for the second party. The avowed aim of the St Andrews Agreement of 2006 was to produce more decisive government than the cumbersome multiparty system had delivered thus far.  The more important political aim was to create the duopoly of the DUP and Sinn Fein and the two governments let them get away with it. Scrapping the law for suspending the Assembly and banning opportunist changes in designation during the life of a mandate reduced the power of the centre ground to keep the Assembly in being.

We can see now that the implementation of St Andrew’s  in 2007 marked the beginning of the end of Sinn Fein’s several years of advantage created by  trading the pace of arms decommissioning.

In practice these changes have made little difference. The DUP’s insistence on   replacing election of the first minister by blocs designated “unionist” and “nationalist,” with nomination by the largest party, would have worked for them last month but not in the way they expected. They were ahead of Sinn Fein by a single seat. Election by designation would have left them one behind and Michelle O’Neill as First Minister. Observers keep calling this symbolic but symbols here are the substance. The DUP may be rueing the day they  succeeded in having the Alliance party banned from switching designations.

Party positions on the Assembly

Power sharing forced the two main parties together as intended but it cannot force them to stay together. If they cannot work together no conceivable amendment to the system will save the Assembly.

Sinn Fein don’t need ulterior motives to explain their conditional approach  to the Assembly. The party’s show of keenness for another election may be their substitute for the border poll that will not be granted. But for them the GFA and its institutions have always been an accommodation rather than a settlement.

They paint a doleful picture of unionists whose opposition to unity is all they have left. If that is  so, it  must mean   “equality” has already been achieved; and yet Sinn Fein continue to demand “ equality” as a condition for returning to  the Assembly.  They inform unionists they’re now prepared to be “open to transitional arrangements, including continued devolution to Belfast within an all-Ireland structure.” Note that phrase  “open to transitional arrangements.”  To supporters this is statesmanlike magnanimity, to critics it is bravado. Either way if Sinn Fein are serious, they need the Assembly as the forum of persuasion.  As for unionists, they need the Assembly in principle and as their centre of power but not when it comes to it, at the expense of the constitutional link with Britain. They would live again with direct rule.

For both parties then and for opposite reasons, the Assembly is their constitutional instrument of second choice.  For the everyday functioning of society however, it means more than that –  the funding of services, the urgent need to reform health and social care, extending sharing in education, the introduction of  lower corporation tax, and  beginning future planning for Brexit.

Moving forward

Direct rule will gradually encroach on these responsibilities. But this week the governments must go further.  Following their plan for the negotiations, they must produce a plan for outcomes.  It should include:

  • On the legacy, funding for inquests, the setting up of the independent investigations unit, a British statement on national security and a review within five years. Compensation for all victims and survivors on the basis of need, with former members of the part-time and full time Army  compensated  on the same basis  as former RUC,  but for them through the Military Covenant (i.e. the Ministry of Defence);
  • A proportionate Irish Language Act with simultaneous translation provided for the Assembly plenary within a stated budget and without the need to balance with Ulster Scots, drawing on comparisons and contrasts with Wales, Scotland and the Republic ;
  • A draft of a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights to substitute for the Human Rights Act;
  • On Brexit, a major role for the  GFA institutions, the British-Irish intergovernmental conference, Assembly and Executive committees and a north-south body to plan for the administration of the border, interchangeable  British and Irish citizenship, and  the longer term future. Uniquely as of right, Sinn Fein would have access to both sets of negotiators. All parties must be incentivised to  accept that Northern Ireland ‘s  future relationship  with the EU will be greatly strengthened if they take part in the other GFA institutions that follow on automatically from a functioning Assembly. The Conservatives have an important persuasion role  here with the DUP.
  • A joint declaration by both governments with Fianna Fail support, that “this is not the time” for a border poll;
  •  After the failure of Fresh Start,  the prevailing fatalism towards any prospect of reform of the Assembly  should be vigorously challenged in view of  the suddenness of the Assembly collapse only months into a new optimistic-sounding mandate. A change to a voluntary coalition and the curtailment of petitions of concern should be promoted  by the governments supported by motions before both parliaments;
  • United pressure from both parliaments for the Assembly to resume. Time should be  made for debate on  motions supporting  reform at Westminster and the Oireachtas  to raise much needed awareness and anticipate  the need for legislation  if  an eventual Assembly deal is not in sight.
  • Joint monitoring of the Assembly by the governments, the Executive and the Assembly Executive Office committee, together and an early warning system for possible breakdown.
  • A review of social legislation on same sex marriage and abortion
  • A recommendation that Arlene Foster should resign if the Coghlin inquiry finds her at serious fault. Gerry Adams has acquitted her already.
  • Consultation on reform, no longer be restricted to the usual internal formats controlled by  government, in which rival constituencies tend to cancel each other out.  Opinion sounding  should be held  openly, similar to the SNP’s “national conversation” for Indy Ref 1.  Widening the constituencies for consultation  also  means the creation  of another institution  required by the GFA  but denied by the parties  – a standing civic forum.

If the parties cannot agree on enough  to  return to the Assembly, the  British government with Irish support should begin to legislate at Westminster for those elements for which it has clear legislative competence and moral responsibility. For the British, this involves  the reality check to make  a screeching U-turn from “hands-off” and the ideal of retaining to Westminster only what can’t be devolved.  Such  a change of tack would be  a tall order for a government that has so far failed to convince that it can reconcile the contradictions of its Brexit strategy with the defence of the “precious, precious Union.”  An open-ended  Assembly stand off should provide the incentive.

Putting the pieces together is doable but it may take more time than is available between now and this Good Friday.  Yet more time must be given, not least to the two governments.  Now the initiative passes to them. They have their own big point to establish; that whatever the strains they will not allow Brexit to split them apart. There’s one proviso. Do we really want solutions or would we prefer to keep  worrying at a  fraying garment?

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Gopher

    Apparently the last election was about RHI and the choice of a party that represents 27.9% of those who voted not to return to the staus quo. Honestly Peter I think you need to have your insight tested.

  • the rich get richer

    A border Poll is the way to concentrate the minds…………………….

    Maybe that will unveil the Phoney politics……….

  • johnny lately

    Lets not forget the SDLP also fought the last election on a “No return to the status quo” ticket, and that no return means until all outstanding agreements are implemented there will be no Stormont. The British government can of course continue to support the DUP and continue to act dishonourably by imposing Direct rule rather than calling another election this will only harden the stance of Nationalisim and broaden the political battlefield. If direct rule is imposed expect that no return to the status quo to cross over to local councils. Interesting times ahead, direct rule ministers may also have to include direct rule councillors.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Interesting call JL bringing in the local councils into the mix ! Then we would really have a local political vacuum ! The question is does CNR have the bottle for such actions ?

  • johnny lately

    In for a penny in for a pound T.E. an all that.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Would certainly put the cat amounst the pigeons but for me it is too dangerous even during the darkest days of the troubles we still had some form of local council management

  • johnny lately

    Nationalists are a majority in four of the six counties T.E why should they continue to accept being treated as foreigners in their own country and why should they continue to accept being short changed by a country who has for centuries reneged on every promise or agreement its made with the Irish people. As long as peaceful and pacifist actions are used to bring that equal playing field into reality why would it be dangerous.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    You have answered your own question “as long as peaceful and pacifist actions are used” Once you go down the line of creating political vacuums it becomes dangerous because it allows others to fill such vacuums for their own agendas

  • Nevin

    “The time has come for the governments to bring forward solutions which involve the people directly”

    Brian, you should know by now that governments (and institutions) put institutions before people. You’ll recall that Ahern and Blair pandered to the demands of paramilitaries as soon as the local parties had reached an accommodation in 1998 and even before this accommodation had been voted on in the two referendums. Also the people, in the form of voters, have largely voted along tribal lines – and are likely to continue to do so.

  • hugh mccloy

    look at the councils dup and sf working together whats happening at stormont is a pr stunt.

  • johnny lately

    And Direct rule wouldn’t create a political vacuum T.E. A situation Unionism and the British government are willing to implement rather than honouring the committments they made in previous agreements. We have now reached the point where Nationalism has realised that engaging in British politics is a pointless exercise, they have no other options.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    There are no winners if direct rule is implemented but if you are talking about taking down local council government then we are really in trouble ? I am trying to think how you could make local councils unworkable you could only do it in councils with a nationalist majority by just voting all business down like you say the British Government would have to appoint a direct mayor to delegate all required business to council civil servant staff

  • Jeremy Cooke

    Or we could seize the opportunity to destroy the parties (which lie at root of our problems) and implement a government selected by sortation?

    The party based political classes are not going to, and are incapable of, delivering competent government. If something doesn’t work why bother repeating ad nauseam?

  • Brian Walker

    still all the same old politiking so far.. no interest in solutions..

  • nilehenri

    sadly brian i think you over-estimate england’s appetite for indulgence. the union is in a very bad way, never has she been so threatened, and from so many sides and so many angles. london simply cannot keep up with the pace. there shall be no return to the status quo because there can be no return to the status quo. the landscape has changed so completely.
    i think that these talks are effectively a nationalist’s banquet, as any counter argument that the other side makes is met with general derision by the general public, simply because it comes from a unionist viewpoint, everyone is tired of it, and tired of nelson, gregory, poots, et all. their vision for the north is dead, they just haven’t realised it yet. they refuse to, or perhaps they really are in some sort of an empire-fuelled denial fest, believing that england will come to their aid as in days of yore.
    reform, suspension, elections, abolition, i think it’s all the same at the end of the day, as none of these outcomes will unduly affect the end result.

  • Korhomme

    Cats are far too independent to be involved with politics. Larry, the No 10 cat isn’t performing the mousing duties adequately. Meanwhile, the Mayor of Riga got put in his place:

  • Gopher

    Nobody knows what the SDLP fought the last election on but after it they are certainly SF in drag.

  • Katyusha

    tbf Sinn Féin are well on board the LGBT equality train as well. SF are also SF in drag nowadays, or rather it doesn’t very much matter whether you like to wear girly clothes or not ;p

  • Gopher

    Sorry was not talking about “Drag” in the LGBT sense of the word but in the fact having woken up the morning after the election retaining their seats the SDLP put on a dress stepped over Mikes body and swished around in SF policies. You cant get a sheet of paper between SF or the SDLP

  • Katyusha

    I’m aware. ’twas a joke.
    But I’d argue, even before the election result, the SDLP were SF-lite. They’ve nowhere else to go after SF stole their dresses, after all.

  • aquifer

    “The provision for a quick second election was designed as a sword of Damocles to concentrate minds on a solution. But our parties have never reacted well to external pressure”

    In a democracy the voters can hardly be viewed as external pressure.

    So centre parties were disallowed from suffering the electoral consequences of switching designations to keep the thing working.

    Another anti-democratic indulgence of the extremes, with the government insisting that we must take their “do what I say or the community/economy/innocent bystander etc gets it” threats of political arson seriously for ever and ever.

    We need to erode the power of traditional parties and voters with hardened attitudes/ arteries by lowering the voting age to 16 and giving individual MLAs a secret vote on forming governments.

  • Croiteir

    Still in the old negotiation mindset, that boat has sailed. The negotiations will happen when the unionists, of British or local hue, come out with their hands up and acknowledge that they need to implement their side of the bargains, then and only then, when we see that they are capable of keeping their word, will fresh negotiations occur. Why would you bother making a new agreement with someone who did not keep their last? Fool me once?

  • Jake Mac Siacais

    Brian I agree with a lot of what you say “Do we really want solutions or would we prefer to keep worrying at a fraying garment? All need to be at the table with more honesty.The single biggest casualty figure by category for the “troubles” was the 824 innocent Catholics slain by loyalists, often with the connivance or direct assistance of the British state. This is not in any way seeking to minimise all the other players’ roles. That should never be countenanced. However, any process which neglects to figure in the systemic sectarian hatred which largely fuelled the “troubles” and still underpins divisions is headed for trouble. The northern statelet could never have been other than it was. It was and is a failed entity. The plantation was just not successful enough or failed in its objectives, depending on your viewpoint. Natives were not sufficiently subdued, “civilisers” didn’t flourish in sufficient numbers. We have all laboured under the plantation’s failed legacy. British policy was and is the cancer at the heart of our difficulties. Dublin and London can wash their hands. We unfortunately still occupy this space, this narrow ground, and we need to find ways to share it. Time for truth. Time for change. Time for some real leadership.

  • AntrimGael

    People do want solutions Brian but to be honest in the here and now most of us aren’t sitting biting our nails in worry or anxiety if the talks fail. I think the days, and nights, of the population frantically listening for the latest political updates, like Drumcree, the Ardoyne shops etc, on Radio Ulster and Downtown are gone….thank goodness.
    Walking around Belfast in the sunshine at the weekend was a stark, and great, reminder that people like normality and don’t want the crap of the past. A solution to the current impasse will be found, an agreed set of words and actions will be proclaimed and life will go on.

  • Jake Mac Siacais

    Maith thú. Well said. Politics is all a pantomime in the final analysis.

  • AntrimGael

    That wasn’t disrespect to your fine analogy Brian and your points are very valid but sometimes I think we can be too over analytical and pseudo over our circumstances. When I walk over the Cavehill we all look so microscopic, unimportant and wrapped up in our wee bubble.

  • AntrimGael

    Apologies Brian if that comes across as playing the man and disrespecting your opinions, not at all meant. Signing off for the night.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Maybe we have all given up on solutions it is a draw both power blocks can’t beat each other and that is the way their voters want it no losers but unfortunately no stable government. It’s maybe the price we pay for the silence of the guns ?

  • Brian Walker

    Here’s a general reply to much of the comment. With polite respect to your sincerity, most of it is beside my point. We have to make a switch from debating politics to managing politics. I know all too well this is not how many people think. They’re more interested in their own deeply felt points of view.

    Of course republicanism is on a roll. The analysis is compelling even to its opponents. The bourgeois parties north and south may resist it, but it isn’t their decision. Momentum supported by a Catholic majority will deliver. Assuming for a moment that’s right, do you rely on numbers to weigh down the opposition as did unionism a century ago, or do you use persuasion and good example? Where else do you demonstrate it except in the Assembly? How unequal are you really? It’s surely illogical to argue that you have th e unionists beat already and also claim you’re still unequal.

    Politics is about making choices in government. Sooner or later the parties will have to return to it. If it is to be later than sooner, what has to happen in the meantime to persuade them to cooperate? Or after all the efforts of 20 years is regional government impossible?

    There’s no point in stating terms the other side will definitely reject or wait for a clear nationalist majority. If a unionist majority failed why should a nationalist majority succeed? The obvious answer from history and the present, is that government is about more than majorities. Its a hard lesson that’s taking a long time to learn. But there’s no real alternative. Other approaches leave you as playthings of bigger forces which by their own nature will not put your interests first.

    The idea that nirvana will emerge naturally out of chaos is a dangerous and I would add, an immoral belief. If there is a lesson from history here it is that disaster threatens if any section of the community is shut out and left sullen, hostile and dissatisfied.

    Three final points. SF is still a revolutionary party that wants to replace the system in which operates. That
    creates contradictions and difficulties that make it hard for them to win the trust needed to win from agnostics outside the faith and the compliance of opponents. . And it is now only about faith and aspiration; whatever SF claims, discrimination is dead, equality has arrived. Whatever happens it will not be a linear march to victory .

    Two, don’t underestimate the ability of the status quo to weather the storm.

    Three, the DUP should take SF’s demands at face value and reply with proposals that put them to the test. Then we’ll all be able to judge who’s negotiating in good faith. After that I’d hand over to the two governments for the shape of a fair deal the
    two traditions could live with.

  • Brian Walker

    I enjoy the loud echo here of Wolfe Tone, Pearse at the funeral of O’Donovan Rossa etc… and other entertaining bits of history I’ m all for sharing the narrow ground..

  • Brian Walker

    The external pressure I referred to was setting a format for talks while standing aloof from their substance.

  • Brian Walker

    Or maybe we need to put as much effort into politics as some people put into conflict?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Can’t argue with that point Brian

  • Brian Walker

    Crotier, SF keep saying it’s only a matter of implementing one side of the bargain. Read the agreements, Implementation was left and only can have been left to the Assembly. I accept and have consistently said that , quite a lot of SF’s list could be implemented without harming any essential unionist position. But it’s quite
    wrong to claim that unionists had signed off any of this in detail and even that SF were militant about it until recently. That explains the change of opportunism to set against DUP’s misjudged majoritarianism, But putting a gun to the other’s head and counting down to pulling the trigger aint the way to sort it . As in any strike deal a compromise is needed. So far it seem we haven’t even had engagement.

  • Brian Walker

    Rest assured AG I’m ok, you’re ok

  • Brian Walker

    and yet Nevin,consistently in the( yes fallible) polls people seem to want solutions … If you change the questions you may get different answers

  • Skibo

    Brian on moving on could I suggest the following points on what you notes?
    1) Legacy, Take it out of the hands of all those who have their fingerprints on Legacy and let Eames/ Bradley sort it out. They had it practically done the last time had it not been for Unionists disagreeing with an agreed definition of a victim.

    2) A proportional Language Act based on Scottish or Welsh, either would do and would show that Irish is of equal standing to the both. Sorted!

    3)Brexit, refer back to the agreed letter by the Executive, simple!

    4) It is not up to the British or the Irish Government when a border poll is carried out. It will happen when it looks like a majority would vote for it. If they can agree a more definite criteria and put it to the whole of Ireland and get it agreed, so be it.

    5) I would be concerned at any move away from voluntary coalition. Any move to introduce a weighted majority may result in the death song for both the UUP and the SDLP.
    How would you suggest curtailing the use of the POC, more than one party required or increase the threshold to to 36 meaning 40% of the MLAs? What happens when a minority slips below the threshold? Perhaps introduce a criteria based on Human Rights, sounds extremely difficult.

    6) United pressure by both governments? Are we not in the position that we are in because both Governments have acted like the job was done, put the NI problem back into the archive? Both are co guarantors of the GFA yet neither could be looked at doing anything of any substance to make the system work. The SOS is better than the last and that is saying something. When was the last time we heard anything from Flanagan pre talks about NI?
    Why do you think they will behave any better?
    The British Government is on an independent arbitrator and the Irish Government does not have the cahoneys to try.
    7)See 6.

    8) I think this requires a referendum as in the South. A number of parties are too linked to the Churches that they will never vote for such a review. Let the people decide and then tell politicians to make it work. Oh hold on we did that already with the GFA and the DUP just ignored the parts they disagreed with!

    9) How do you define serious fault? Would Fault be adequate to make her step down. Would incompetent be enough to just send her back for retraining?

    10) Consultation on reform? As one who looks at the GFA as merely a holding post for reunification, reform is merely tinkering round the sides and trying to agree on the colour of the paper.

    Reunification is the solution. It always has been and always will be. The problem before was the use of violence in trying to make it happen.
    Previously the tag of supporting violence was enough to prevent it being given a fair hearing.
    Now it seems that anyone who had any involvement should not have a part in planing that future.
    The Southern parties were so sensitive of annoying Unionists that they too forgot their past and neglect to remember how the South came into being.
    We are not in that place now. Violence has subsided to the level that it does not make the headlines across the water. Even here it doesn’t always make the first story. My God the collapse of Stormont didn’t even make the first headline on National news!
    There is no violence on the streets of London. The Treasury can afford a certain amount of financial support for here and there was no political impetus in the final solution for NI.
    Brexit changes all that. The EU has put us back front and centre. It was not violence that put us there but economic and trade reasons. Now is the time to properly discuss reunification, positives and negatives and then discuss would it be a better or worse place to be.

  • Croiteir

    Brian, the Tories are unionists. As I said, and you do not seem to have picked up, it is now up to unionists, of British and local hue, to upkeep their agreements. It is correct to say that unionists signed up. Not only that unionists have stated that they were co guarantors of the agreements. There is no further compromise available. That compromise was done and agreed. As for the ridiculous line about holding guns to peoples head, must be a guy slow trigger as it has taken 20 years to pull it.

  • Skibo

    Could i suggest you look at what happened in Germany in 14th July 1933 and then tell us all it is okay to destroy political parties.

  • Skibo

    Hugh you have the pleasure of looking at Nationalist controlled councils. I suggest you look closer at those with a Unionist majority and tell me they are working well.

  • Reader

    Ards and North Down council seems to be OK. Any issues with that?

  • hugh mccloy

    they are working together, good or bad no matter what way you butter it

  • Skibo

    Hardly a good example of where DUP and SF can work together!

  • Jimmyz

    Catholic death squads were responsible for more deaths than all other “players” combined.

  • AntrimGael

    Correct, the British Military and Security Services ALWAYS had a high proportion of old English Catholic families.

  • Jeremy Cooke

    Sounds good to me – destroy them all. The whipped party system is destroying democracy in the West.

    http://www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol9/iss1/art11/

  • nilehenri

    with all due respect i don’t think that i do.

    “a doleful picture of unionists whose opposition to unity is all they have left.”

    “the GFA and its institutions have always been an accommodation.”

    when you suggested a screeching U-turn from “hands-off” a shudder went up my spine. it is precisely this (pardon my bluntness) unionist mind-set that is no longer fit for purpose.

    republicanism isn’t on a roll, it’s the new order around here. for many years requests for commitment and offers of open communication fell on deaf ears. murderous sf/ira was the stock mantra, and that’s one of the nicer descriptions we all heard growing up. unionists could have had until the 2020 election but their own intransigent belligerence cost them dearly. even at the last election they were given the most finest of reprieves from total humiliation (in their eyes, note) but they choose instead to stage a ‘last man on the hill’ moment, and carry on in this suicidal vein, because in the next elections it’s curtains for every unionist majority on everything.

    there is a question that i believe newton emerson first brought up: when all our institutions (assembly, councils, politicians, civil service etc) are statistically majority nationalist how (and why) would westminster face down any calls for greater integration/special status/border polls without making a total mockery of the democratic process and stated aims here?

    your point about a political majority doesn’t guarantee equal rights. were that the case race wouldn’t be an issue in america for example.

    “The idea that nirvana will emerge naturally out of chaos is a dangerous and I would add, an immoral belief.”

    does morality truly have a place in government? certainly no-one can predict the future, but the history is there for everyone to see, and that is where the change sprouted from. the unionists squandered their advantages, if sinn fein tactics are not playing ball then so be it, that’s politics for you, all is fair in love and war, right?

    peter robinson made a mockery of the office with the hokey-cokey period, (after receiving a huge blind eye from the electorate over other matters, and for many years), gregory campbell showed himself up for the yoke he is with his stupid comments, and then we had the buttermilk putsch. flags, bonfires, ridiculous court cases and atrociously bad reporting from major unionist media outlets, total negation of irish culture and nationhood, (something that was born and forged in ulster. you couldn’t make this up!), brexit, any party that wheels out mccausland, that is what has led us to where we are, and defined what we are standing for. there is no reason nor need to back down. this is england’s mess and should it take them an eternity to solve it (in reality they have two years) then so be it. sorry, but it seems to me that them’s the hard rules of the world that we live in.

    sf as a revolutionary party is an oxymoron. that the state of ireland both north and south needs change is evident. currently they are not fit for service and will be less so as events unfold. equally, sf are not obliged to find the answers for a non-listening audience. unionism has it’s own sould searching to do, and would need to come up with something better than brexit and longing for mother england’s tit.

    if we don’t get an answer by friday point two will be put to the test. michelle still isn’t blinking. arelen has myxomatosis.

    the dup won’t do the right thing. leopards. spots. cronus-like they will devour, first the uup and perhaps some others before events make them gradually more irrelevent. it’s a shame the free p don’t believe in miracles, because christ knows they could be doing with one now.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/585e0ddd82252512546afdbaeb844f8a721e72d4bb1daa85cb027a5bec515c23.png

  • Brian Walker

    Thanks for explaining one side of the problem so eloquently. I respect your authenticity but it doesn’t take us any further. Good Friday isn’t when we fall off the edge of a cliff. I addressed Sinn Fein’s agenda and youve ignored it. What’s missing I suppose is emotional acknowledgment. That needs genuine face to face dialogue and that sadly is missing in the talks.

  • Brian Walker

    Of course I’ve picked up on that. Did you read the piece before you replied? I go back to my first reply. All this eloquence doesn’t meetmy point which addresses Sinn Fein’s agenda without the language. What’s lacking is the emotional acknowledgment so many in this thead need. I accept that. But it can only be satisfied in genuine face to face dialogue

  • Croiteir

    Been there done that – forget it Brian, those cabbages have been boiled to mush

  • nilehenri

    but from good friday on it only gets better for ‘us’. sinn fein’s agenda is bigger than the northern institutions, which ironically are starting to become the bedrock of unionism. given their size in the south they effectively enjoy a double channel to westminster, via the dail and stormont. just when you thing things can’t get any worse for unionism they do, and there’s not a thing that can be done to stall it, because it’s a process, a sea change, a before and after event.
    this isn’t a question that can be answered by throwing the buck at sinn fein, it’s a soul searcher for unionism.