The shape of a Stormont deal is emerging. Will promised public consultation seal the deal or become yet another stalling move?

So the parties are to respond to a paper issued by the two governments today. After four months of apparent lack of close engagement by the British government in particular , talks  took on a clearer shape and urgency since the Westminster general election. The paper has been seen by Barney Rowan and summarised in Eamonn Mallie’s website .

The content of the the legacy section has been around for months with agreement said to be on the brink for most of that time –  but not quite.  For Sinn Fein the main sticking point remains of the British government ‘s definitive  view of national security as an inhibitor on disclosure. Sinn Fein seem no nearer to accepting this than ever.

What is to be the role of public consultation over this document? Are the parties expected to agree with all or parts of it first before it‘s published? . Will publication be accompanied by a commentary  on what has been agreed? Or will this public consultation be yet another stalling move?  Each party is certain to publish its own view. How much of different views can be reconciled?

Whatever they decide to do about the paper, will the parties now agree to return to the Assembly to continue the debate there?  And once back will they stay there whether they reach full agreement or not?  How much can be squeezed out in the form of concessions  by prolonging the boycott?

The delayed DUP deal with the Tories at Westminster  doesn’t seem like a serious  concern after Leo Varadkar accepted Theresa May’s assurances yesterday.   

Rowan writes:

In the legacy section, the government’s intention is clearly signalled – “the next step should be to consult the public”.

“The main negotiation on legacy is over,” one source commented.

As part of a consultation, there had been plans to publish a statement of principles on National Security. This will not now happen.

“We told them the [national security] paper was totally unacceptable,” one talks insider commented

This website has also read that statement of principles, previously shared with the parties. The National Security veto, which will decide what information can be shared in reports emerging from investigations and information-retrieval processes, is a continuing standoff involving the British Government, Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

It is certain to emerge in any public consultation, along with the funding for a legacy project.

The proposal is for a £150million package covering the Historical Investigations Unit, Independent Commission on Information Retrieval, an archive and reconciliation element. After two years, the funding proposal would be reviewed to be assessed whether sufficient.

Unionist concerns about that new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) and a proposal from the Defence Select Committee for a statute of limitations are also likely to become part of any consultation.

In the latest paper, Irish language, Ulster Scots, an Armed Forces Covenant and the petition of concern are grouped under the heading Equality and Respect.

The publicly stated position of the SDLP is that the  way to solve these controversial issues is to reform the petition of concern, but there is not yet a consensus or agreement on the way forward.

This is made clear in the latest talks document.

Across several dozen pages, it identifies the key issues to be resolved and the gaps that have to be closed within the latest short time frame of a June 29 deadline.

There is much work still to be done and not much time within which to do it; the effort here in Belfast further complicated by those continuing separate talks involving the DUP and the Conservative Party.

For a second time in recent days, I have been told that if “a good agreement” can be achieved on the key issues in the Stormont Talks, then it would not be impossible to resolve the issue of Arlene Foster as First Minister.

The Sinn Fein position is that the DUP leader cannot hold Executive office until the completion of the RHI Inquiry, but a key source sees room for manoeuvre.

“Let’s think our way through it. Politics is the art of the possible,” he said.

But how much is possible in such a short time – in London and here?

And how final is this final deadline of June 29?

Can the Foster/Dodds leadership move the DUP to the point where an agreement is possible – to force SInn Féin into a rethink on Arlene Foster?

Might another Assembly Election still fit somewhere within this frame?

We are heading for another intense period of talks still not knowing what will be on the far side of all the documents and negotiations that are a part of trying to fix the broken politics of this place.

 

 

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  • Redstar

    Usual routine Gerry huffs puffs and marches his supporters to the top of the hill then tells them a massive climb down is a victory…… and they fall for it

  • ted hagan

    ‘Might another Assembly Election still fit somewhere within this frame?’
    Another election. What on earth for?
    This is all very woolly stuff, especially on the Irish Language Act. and RHI, and tells us very, very little.

  • Ciaran74

    You may be right there but SF will suffer the electoral wrath if they come back with cuddly stuff, vague notions, and Arlene as FM.

    The Nationalist electorate didn’t put their faith in SF for that mandate to be pushed around. If the vista looks like it did prior to RHI breaking, they are fooked. Plain. Simple.

  • Redstar

    Couldn’t agree more

  • Redstar

    Surely what’s being proposed re the ILA is a trade off with the Forces Covenant?

  • the keep

    That’s why the Nationalist community were very foolish to put their faith in SF and SF were very foolish to paint themselves into a corner.

  • Ciaran74

    Very foolish to back SF or out the lack of belief in the Assembly and the attitude of our Unionist Execuive partners? The headline straps may have moved, the battles to out do each other carry on, but the general feeling is the same. And it’s being missed/ ignored categorically by Unionism.

    Progress, recognition, community.

  • chrisjones2

    The next step is to consult the public

    ….but what if we collectively say NO …what happens then?

  • If the public unanimously reject the bulk of ideas of victim compensation then how can political leaders argue that the people are in favour of it

  • Oggins

    I am guessing it will allow to both happen, which might struggle if they were singular.

  • Nordie Northsider
  • Granni Trixie

    I don’t understand Rowans Ref to lack of consensus over review/reforms of POC – Alliance have been clear on that and AF has stated several times that she understands why many think it is had been working badly.

  • Skibo

    While it is not a fair comparison, it would result in the DUP and UUP having difficulty voting against an ILA if it was preventing preferential treatment to the retired Armed Forces.

  • Skibo

    I think the issue of stability in the Dail will dictate more than anything if SF will return to Stormont.
    At the moment, it looks like FF are prepared to let the present Dail run for a while. Perhaps they want FG to make all the running in the Brexit negotiations. They could have brought the Government down over the appointment of Marie Whelan but decided not to.

  • Skibo

    While there have been stalls in the SF vote, I do not remember any large reduction. He must be doing something right.

  • WindowLean

    Arlene’s recollection hazy again…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-40342102

  • Zorin001

    I’m not sure “I don’t remember and if it came from my office I didn’t write it” is the best defence.

  • Skibo

    If you look at any comments by AF, she is very specific as to what can be discussed in the Downing St discussions and what is a matter for Stormont. While I am not trumpeting for SF return to Stormont, it should be remembered that if powers are returned to Westminster, those areas will then be able to come under a DS revised deal.

  • Redstar

    My point is in relation specifically to the March ” surge”

    I believe many who rallied behind them then will not be impressed if they now return to some nonsense arrangement in Stormont

  • Nordie Northsider

    That nice ‘liberal’ Simon Hamilton of all people!

  • Granni Trixie

    It’s a very odd comparison – your rationale?

  • Granni Trixie

    From usual suspects I expect.

  • Granni Trixie

    Afraid I’ve lost faith that in NI “public consultation” does what it says on the tin- usually means kicking it down the road or at least the outcome claimed by all sides to support their views.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    She is attempting to put “blue water” between the two Arlenes, the minister and the person. It looks as if she is suggesting that her department sent the letter rather than that it came from herself personally. I think she is suggesting also that the department formulated the Renewable Heat Initiative without her knowledge or approval while she was Environment minister. I’m beginning to wonder why we appoint someone to ministerial office when nothing that transpires in their departments seems to be known to them. Is there any way we can monitor whether or not she is appraised of issues as First Minister by these rogue civil servants?

  • chrisjones2

    “landmark legal challenge”

    Ie hasnt got a hope in hell but someone has the cash so lets give it a whirl

  • chrisjones2

    sadly very easily

    Just as they could reject us saying forget about the whole of the past and move to the future

    But we will never be asked those questions

  • Jag

    “or a second time in recent days, I have been told that if “a good agreement” can be achieved on the key issues in the Stormont Talks, then it would not be impossible to resolve the issue of Arlene Foster as First Minister.

    The Sinn Fein position is that the DUP leader cannot hold Executive office until the completion of the RHI Inquiry, but a key source sees room for manoeuvre.

    “Let’s think our way through it. Politics is the art of the possible,” he said.”

    Can’t see SF agreeing to re-establish Executive with Arlene Foster as first minister until RHI inquiry is complete (or significantly advanced – the hearings are expected to start “early Autumn”). To go back into an Executive now with Arlene as first minister would be to spit on the grave of Martin McGuinness.

  • Jag

    Gina Miller would probably disagree with you….

  • Nordie Northsider

    Whatever the ultimate decision on such a case might be it’s just another little bit of chaos for Theresa May to deal with.

  • Zorin001

    If it even gets to the stage of requiring a challenge. Sky News Ireland correspondent tweeting earlier that a deal looks shaky and “Negotiations haven’t proceeded in a way that DUP would have expected.”

  • Paddy Reilly

    RHI is a UUP created scandal. SF only joined up, belatedly, because it would not look good for them to be more indulgent of DUP corruption than the UUP are. As the Protestant electorate has shown no sign of climbing on the UUP’s bandwagon, then it isn’t really SF’s duty to pursue the matter.

  • Paddy Reilly

    No, SF did very well in both recent elections. They are clearly pursuing a strategy that works for them.

  • WindowLean

    You can’t expect her to be over every jot and tittle of a Ministerial letter which she has signed, sent to a Minister in another devolved government, about a high profile issue…can you?? She really is unfit for office.

  • runnymede

    yes quite

  • Barneyt

    Thing is the DUP still has the capacity to take the wrong turn and gift sf. There are a few miles to thread and it may be that the tories prove more toxic for DUP than the other way around. The sun is shining on the DUP currently but it’s casting up potential as well as the risk they might steer into the rocks. Bit cocky stating to tories not to take them for granted. However they should take that line with the torys in my opinion.

  • Barneyt

    Thing is the DUP have two options with respect to forming a government. Here and over beyond.an embarrassment of riches. They are also caught between a rock and a hard place.

  • JOHN TURLEY

    People have been saying that about Gerry for the last 30 years,..yet his mandate kept getting bigger.
    He is in a stronger position now than ever.

  • Barneyt

    You may be right giving that the torys have already compromised their rigorous impartiality but I’m interested to hear your thoughts on why?

  • the keep

    For them not for the people who live here still what you expect from ex terrorists?

  • Ciaran74

    Surely a press leak spoof in the light if their recent attention? ‘We don’t really know them that well (thanks for the champers in Brighton), we’re not that close (back off a bit and let’s see what happens), the deal might have to wait until after the Queen’s speech (sort you out later), and it really really doesn’t impinge on any other gig (wink)……’

    Lagan. Bubble.

  • Sprite

    Really? I’ve always interpreted the “ah dear oh” sigh McGuinness gave as he sat before the media to deliver the coup de grace to the Executive to reflect his disappointment at having reached that juncture. Was it really Martin’s choice or was he acting as directed by the party – we’ll never know. I do believe however that Martin McGuinness saw the value in working through issues in the Assembly – more so perhaps than other senior SF figures.

  • Ciaran74

    Pengelly?

  • Sprite

    surely a successful case that denied unionists the ability to provide support to a governing party in Britain would also rule out northern nationalists participating in coalition government in Ireland

    I struggle to see how this works really. Are the UK govt in breach if a party representing one side of the community in Northern Ireland votes with them at Westminster?

    Were Labour in breach when the SDLP MPs voted with them and unionists didn’t?

    It’s bonkers.

  • Jag
  • Thomas Girvan

    What’s his first name?

  • Ciaran74

    John Bull.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And yet she is still heading up the DUP, which is clinging onto a single seat majority if Stormont ever reconvenes! Political Unionism always attempted to smother every other potential issue under the only question, the constitutional status of NI. I suppose that everything else in politics, such as even competence, is still somehow irrelevant to Unionist voters.

  • Skibo

    The March surge was as a result of how insulted the Nationalist community felt about AF’s comments and the issue of RHI. SF were seen to use their political clout rather than accepting what the DUP wanted.
    (The fact that the reduction of seats per constituency increased this effect was a surprise to Unionist parties. It would be interesting to see if the surge in Unionist votes during the Westminster election would counteract that.)
    They could go back in if they can get the ILA even if they have to accept the Security Forces Charter. While the two should not be linked under the same legislation, SF should be able to allow it through if the DUP allow the ILA.
    The issue of a bill of rights, I believe will take more work but it could happen during the duration of Stormont.
    What SF need to portray this time is their meek acceptance of all that DUP want with no appreciation of what the Nationalist community require can not taken for granted.
    Any continuation of the DUP abusing their positions as Ministers in actions similar to RHI, RED SKY, NAMA or the direction of funds loaded in a specific sectarian direction etc will leave them held to account.

  • Skibo

    I said it was not a fair comparison. While the two could not be covered in the same bill, if they were linked in some way, it would result in Unionists accepting in an ILA to get a Forces Covenant and Nationalists accepting a Forces Covenant to get an Irish Language Act.
    It would be a way to break the log jam. Unfortunately Unionism have used any means necessary to block the ILA and even after agreeing this may block it’s implementation.
    There is a severe breakdown in trust.

  • Christopher Mc Camley

    Lord this is tedious. In terms of legacy issues British are never going to reveal their secrets and IRA aren’t going to reveal theirs. The posturing is just a pain for everyone else and for victims, well you can imagine.