With little of substance separating SF and the DUP, a war over manners stands proxy for NI politics…

Interesting editorial in the Irish Times musing on the subject of Sinn Fein’s true intentions re the restart of institutions, and concluding that:

Although the DUP is showing signs of a willingness to engage, the noises coming from Sinn Féin are less positive and there are doubts about the party’s real intentions. One widely held view is that it has given up on wanting to exercise power in the North on the basis that it is damaging its strategy of building support in the Republic. The party has certainly been stung by accusations from its opponents in the Dáil that it is willing to implement policies in the North that it vehemently opposes south of the border.

One way of putting an end to such taunts would be to avoid going back to power sharing. That would trigger direct rule from Westminster and would allow the party to adopt a populist anti-government strategy on both sides of the border. The other side of the coin, though, is that if it shows itself incapable of exercising power in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin’s credibility as a potential party of government in the Republic will suffer.

The former is where the instinct of its interminably secure leadership group lies. Contact with government responsibility has done it no direct harm in Northern Ireland (particularly when compared directly with the DUP), but nor has it been particularly able to prosper by it.

The collapse was precipitated by a base unhappy with its record in government. Perhaps that’s been satiated by the spilling of unionist blood at the polls. But as the Times editorial points out, there’s little to be negotiated that have “not already been covered in the Stormont House and Fresh Start agreements”.

But as the Times editorial points out, there’s little left to be negotiated which has “not already been covered in the Stormont House and Fresh Start agreements”.

Perhaps this explains why the controversies currently blowing through the body politic centre on politically inconsequential matters such as the choice of words between the two women most likely to head the local institutions, should they restart in the next few months?

  • Skibo

    There is only one way to test that, both the British Government and the DUP have to stand over the two previous agreements with a time linked schedule of dates and KPIs.
    When that is done, the negotiations are on a level playing field.
    There is no negotiation in the ILA or the Bill of Rights, both are covered within legislation. Legacy has been talked till all are blue in the face.
    The other issues can be resolved by reserving the POC for what it was designed for.

  • Skibo

    Mick would the test not be accepting the GFA and the SAA and see if the assembly can be reformed? The legislation is in place, it just has to be actioned.

  • Skibo

    A very good post and probably the best description I have read of how we arrived where we are today.

  • Skibo

    Stand up to SF? I thought at the moment SF are standing up for the GFA and the SAA.
    As for a 32 county Ireland only weeks away, I would suggest 5 to 10 years unless the Brexit plan can be shown to be so destructive to the Northern economy that the people wake up and say we need the EU.

  • Skibo

    I would have assumed that an amnesty would have been more like an legal act to say that all actions relating to pre 1998 troubles would not be investigated. How can you mention names when the DPP may not have the names?

  • Skibo

    But it was. Funds were being directed and spent, and other than the Education department not spending funds for shared campuses, funds were not going back to Westminster like the years before 2006.

  • Skibo

    Chris,
    The IRA were not utterly defeated.
    SF walking away from Stormont because others refuse to fully endorse all the parts of the previous agreements, has little to do with the attitudes to terrorism from other parts of the world.
    When it comes to terrorism, both the UK and the USA have two different attitudes depending on where the terrorism is carried out and by whom.
    We have 11 councils, SF wanted 7. I am glad to see you are coming round to their way of thinking.
    As for the British and Irish Government running here with the councils, I believe that would be known as joint authority. It would be a useful argument for Special Status in relation to the EU if such a governmental system was in place.
    To have the councils having more power would result in SF actually having more power over the land area of the North.

  • johnny lately

    Your using the data from the results of a thousand people being surveyed then exponentially using the results of that survey to come up with your figure of a million. So in reality your facts are based on assumption rather than actual truth.

  • Skibo

    Marcuss around 335000 are that angry that they get themselves off the sofa to vote. How many of them do you think will be that angry that they will get out and demonstrate or resort to violence?
    When was the last massive demonstration?

  • Marcus Orr

    You said to the other poster that 1 million unionists is a fairytale – so you are making the claim. Neither you nor I can interview 1.8 million people in NI to find out the “actual truth”. The question is whether it is a reasonable claim or not that there are in fact about 1 million unionists in NI. I would submit on the best (though limited) knowledge that we have, that 1 million is a reasonable estimate – counting the under 18s etc who can’t vote. Do you have any counter evidence that suggests otherwise, to back up your original claim ?

  • Skibo

    The people who get out and vote are the only people you can rely on as to having knowledge of their political affiliations.
    Anything else trying to work out how people will react is merely surmising.
    If a person is not motivated enough to vote, how can you rely on them to act in any way for or against the Union?

  • james

    Surely the names of all those receiving comfort letters are available?

  • Skibo

    Why is it important to have the names of these people?

  • Gopher

    I am not sure how angry a population has to be before it resorts to insurgeny. But given the template of unapologetic nationalism, for the troubles there would always be some minded to replicate that strategy. Marty unfortunately missed a real opportunity to mitigate that sentiment before his death. Scale in hypotheticals is always hard to judge. Previously despite lunatic ranting to the contrary loyalist violence was the preserve of the meanest class in society, though not devoid of cunning, capabilty and technical ability was lacking. An insurgency like that of the IRA had access to the embittered and ideologically deranged fodder of graduate level and drew support and sympathy then as now from a host of people in the professional classes plus a neighbouring country to governmental level. If unionists reached an level of anger that drew support from from a broader spectrum given that many who have been through all branches of of services you would be looking at more serious consequences which would not be numerical dependent.

  • Katyusha

    As Germany is the richest and most populous nation it will provide the bulk and spine of that force.

    Gopher, are you aware of the sorry state the Bundeswehr is in… France is the overwhelmingly major military power of the EU, now that Britain is leaving. They have about comparable numbers of personnel to Italy, and spend much less than NATO’s guideline 2% of GDP on military spending. The German media is always full of story of underspending on the Bundeswehr and inadequate equipment.

    As for any EU army, if it forces Ireland to increase military spending and upgrade the defense forces, it can only be a god thing in my book But there will be no “human rights” led insurgency – for one, I’ve never heard anyone advocate the new republic to become a discriminatory state like NI was, and as a second, if the capability of the loyalist paramilitaries is anything to go by, they don’t have the sophistication for an insurgency, or anything more complex than rioting and murdering innocent civilians.One UK response to the insurgency in Northen Ireland was to raise a state-sponsored paramilitary force (the UDR), something I don’t see either the Irish state or the EU replicating. The PSNI and a revamped Irish Army should be sufficient without flooding the place with European troops, although the neutrality of such may be welcomed. Still, there would seem little strategic benefit in locating European troops in Ireland other than as a peacekeeping force if required – you know, the type of role the Irish Army has fulfilled in various conflict zones worldwide.

  • james

    It’s important because if they are to escape the justice they so richly deserve, then at least they should not be afforded the luxury of swanning around pretending to be ordinary, decent members of society. If we are to have an amnesty, so be it, but I think we all have a right to know who the beneficiaries are.

    That is the red line for me, and I would imagine should be for all decent people. If the law says there must be an amnesty, I’ll accept that – but I think it’s too much to expect that these hypocritical cowards be allowed to hide behind a veil of anonymity. Your children and grandchildren should know who you were and what you either did or were suspected of doing to require need of a Royal pardon or OTR letter. Under any other terms I say no amnesty.

  • Skibo

    James is the act of issuing an amnesty, Royal Pardon or OTR letter not something personal between the state and whoever is in receipt of it?
    Should their names be released for you to act as judge and jury on how they live their lives?

  • james

    That’s a rather neat stich-up – but as an amnesty cannot exist for the victims of terrorism, and no Royal pardon can return a lost relative to me, I feel that, no, it is not a private matter between the terrorist and the state.

  • johnny lately

    If we are not entitled to know the names or ranks of all those RUC officers who supplied the UDA with weapons that were later used in multiple murders or those RUC officers who controlled and directed state agents who were actually serial killers or even the names of those RUC officers who allowed a rapist/murderer evade justice in order to use him as a state puppet in a loyalist paramilitary group, why should the puppet masters and their crimes be hidden behind the curtain of national security while the puppets they controlled are open to public scrutiny.

  • BeanRua

    When asked for 1 word to describe Michelle O’Neill, the best Arlene could come up with was ‘blonde’. She could have said ‘intelligent’ or ‘formidable’ or ‘committed’, but no, she used a word that is often associated with dumb or dizzy, and in doing so demeaned and denigrated MO’N’s position as potential joint first minister. It’s not a sectarian word, but the intent behind it smacks of superiority. Arlene is a clever woman and a trained lawyer, but she instead chose to be a smartarse and in doing so showed herself up.

  • james

    “the first thing that strikes me and I suspect a lot of others is, how blonde and pleasing to the eye Michelle O’Neill is.” Jude Collins.

    Your thoughts on this quote, which predates Arlene’s interview by some time, please?

  • BeanRua

    Sexist! By focussing on her appearance, as if that’s the only important thing about her, it demeans her position. It really annoys me when a female politician is primarily judged on her appearance and not her abilities – it rarely happens to male politicians.

  • Skibo

    The justice that any state meets out onto anyone found guilty is between the state and the culprit. That does not change. How do you suggest that we resolve the issue?
    The victims and their relatives are always the ones who end up paying the price in any conflict.
    All wars are the same. Will the relatives of the people of London or Belfast or Berlin killed in Arial bombing during the war ever find out who were the ones who murdered their family?

  • james

    “the intent behind it smacks of superiority.”

    Also the case for Jude? Do you think he should apologize?

  • Skibo

    James care to post a link to say what he says about her?

  • BeanRua

    As I said the remark was sexist, superiority is already implied. Apologies don’t mean anything these days, too many people do the public apology thing but continue on regardless. However, if an apology was offered unprompted by public opinion or similar pressure, then fine, but otherwise no point in my view.

  • Nevin

    Skibo, I should imagine the the RHI inquiry will be looking at all aspects of the debacle, including the very loose nature of governance. Local as well as regional government isn’t fit for purpose.

  • johnny lately

    Jude Collins description was clearly intended as a compliment, are you claiming Arlene was complimenting Michelle O Neill after previously describing her as a wooden one ie a puppet on strings being pulled by Gerry Adams ?

  • james

    Hmm…. so basically you judge by different standards of interpretation depending on the political persuasion of the speaker.

    In reality the comments are darned near identical.

  • james

    Mick already has.

  • johnny lately
  • johnny lately

    Put it this way James, Arlene clearly stated herself that the remark was sexist but when egged on that it wasn’t sexist if it was true then went on to describe Michelle O Neill as Blonde, when pressed further

    “Michelle is very attractive. She presents herself very well and she always is, you know, her appearance is always very ‘the same’. You never see her without her make-up. You never see her without her hair (looking) perfect”

    If you removed Michelle and inserted “Gerry Adams puppet” you would understand clearly what is being promoted.

  • james

    “If you removed Michelle and inserted “Gerry Adams puppet” you would understand clearly what is being promoted.”

    That’s the whole trouble right there. If you take out the words Foster used, and insert the words you’d like her to have used, you’d have a perfect stick to beat her with.

    But it still isn’t what she said.

    I’m mystified why Republicans don’t just make up quotes from scratch and pretend Foster said them.

  • johnny lately

    I took out one word and inserted a previous description Arlene Foster give of Michelle O Neill.

  • james

    But were you offended by that? Or are you offended by this?

    Or are you just offended in general?

  • Starviking

    A Beattie win would be great, from a quick peruse of the net he seems like a fair man.

  • Hugh Davison

    ‘Irland Korps’ – nice dog whistle there.

  • Gopher

    The German media can be just as Daily Mail as any other nations media, at the end of the day the Bundenswehr got its ethos from veterans tested in battle from the Wehrmacht with nominal denazification of course. So I expect they will do just fine. The percentage of GDP given that Germany is the largest economy in Europe is deceptive. The Army is well on the way to be “European” integrating Dutch, Czech and incidently Roumanian units into its higher formations. Guess it dont want any Roumanians on its flanks without a German beside them. So Germany is well on the way to becoming the Army of Tilly and Wallenstien once again. If you want to get onboard in the new HRE any EU national is free to join.

    Nobody has mentioned what the new Republic will look like politically or more practically financially so I’m not taking any wishful thinking to the bank.

    I alluded to in the other post somewhere below if Nationalism dont get its own house in order it wont be thick Loyalists it will be dealing with in an insurgency. Of course the situation is hypothetical but catalysts can always be found so I would be putting some more thought to that new Republic of yours rather than pursing the same course that is content to put “Brits” (feel the love) on pikes since 1641 and name play parks after the perpetrators.

    The Irish army has 9,000 men and google tells me some 80 AFVs and a couple of Helicopters. I think you will need to be spending north of 2% if Irland Korps dont help you. With Irland Korps comes the complete loss of soveriegnty because in life as in politics you dont get something for nothing unless of course your SF negotiating with the Alliance Party, SDLP or Greens, then you get a free ride. Europe however will get its pound of flesh in return.

  • Skibo

    Nevin I can see that the inquiry will look further than the financial issue of RHI to include governance and probity but I would have assumed they will stay within the parameters of the RHI scheme itself. I do not think it will be looking to see if local and regional governance is fit for purpose.

  • Nevin

    Skibo, to stay within the parameters of the RHI scheme would be to overlook widespread structural deficiencies. Some of the stories my friends and I have covered since around 2007 have involved several departments and ministers from more than two parties, as well as regional and local public servants. Also supposed guardians of the public interest could be little more than toothless watchdogs, even gatekeepers.

  • Skibo

    Nevin, no doubt we have a problem about how efficient local government is but the RHI investigation is not the place to discuss such things. It has to stick within the parameters of how the Assembly works.
    There is a need to review how the assembly works but that will be for another place and time.

  • Nevin

    Skibo, I drew attention to the failure of the Stormont departments to follow Treasury recommended best practice back in 2012 when I wrote my RHI blog a few months ago.

    The Office of the Information Commissioner should insist that Departments provide Model Publication Schemes so that anyone can easily search and peruse agendas, minutes and officers’ report in order to offer constructive comment and, if necessary, sound the alarm.

    I’d also suggest that a more effective mechanism is required for whistleblowers/concerned citizens to be both heard and protected.