And so the focus shifts…

And we’re back in Belfast with the main parties and their negotiations.

The final deadline is Thursday, but substantial agreement is expected today.

The DUP have obtained a deal that is extremely good for infrastructure, bringing things into the possible that were recently all but pipe dreams, although you may excuse my cynicism that the money made available for health is tinkering at the edges (will it be yet another “if you’re going to do this damn silly thing, don’t do it this damn silly way” scenario as Donaldson stopped short of describing all previous partially-completed health reforms?)

However, how good will it be for the Assembly?

The DUP finds itself in a very strong position, and I am going to suggest that it doesn’t need a deal this week. A deal would be the cream on top of a good week for them, and the absence of a deal is risky, but it’s difficult to see a losing scenario for them.

Scenario 1 – a deal is reached

The DUP may make a gesture on the Irish Language Act – it is hard to see them compromising on Arlene Foster as First Minister at this stage – or Sinn Fein might capitulate for the common good. Everything goes back to normal until the next crisis.

Scenario 2 – Direct rule

The DUP suddenly find themselves with 28 unemployed MLAs, but could extract concessions for individual difficult votes in the House of Commons – Orders in Council made by Direct Rule Ministers in lieu of an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly are unlikely to be blocked when they are laid before Parliament, but their content and scope could be influenced.

A typical scenario might be equal marriage – if sufficient court cases were lost, direct rule ministers might wish to lay the necessary legislation before Parliament, and there is no doubt that it would pass with bipartisan support.  It could instead be a pawn in a battle for votes on an important Bill not covered by the formal confidence and supply arrangements.

This is probably the worst scenario for Sinn Fein, whose ability to influence a Conservative government with a “radical republican agenda” was always limited by mutual opposition to their political and economic aims, and their abstentionism makes the job of the Conservative whips a lot easier – despite Arlene Foster’s claims to the contrary in the BBC leader’s debate before the March Assembly election.

Scenario 3 – a new election

Just what no other party wants, and nor would the population of NI particularly want it, but with the backlash seen in the General Election, the DUP might fancy its chances of getting the additional seats required to revert to abusing the petition of concern and asserting their dominance of unionism, with side benefits for Sinn Fein and nationalism.

Conclusion

For once, I believe that the DUP is genuine in its desire to get the Executive re-established by the end of this week, and not just because so many salaries are at risk (and I am as cynical as they come.)

However, even if a deal is not attained, it is hard to see how they could have a “bad” result from this, either for themselves or for their electorate, the enquiry into RHI notwithstanding.

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  • james

    “SF has no intention of agreeing an Irish Language Act if it’s heaped in with Polish and Ulster Scots.”

    Why on earth not? What is this superiority complex based on? I see no reason whatever for them to be promoting this delusional idea that Irish is ‘better’ than Polish, Lithuanian, Ulster Scots, Cantonese or whichever. Strikes me as very arrogant.

  • james

    I think they’re all too scared of Gerry – they know what he’s capable of – but when he shuffles off the mortal coil I can see a spectacular implosion. Would have been interesting had McGuinness outlived him whether he could have held the line. I kind of doubt it.

  • james

    Aren’t dinosaurs kind of reptilian?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Jag, I said back in December that it was risky for SF to make Arlene a Red Line for their return to the Assembly. After the March AE17 SF had Arlene on the canvass, but Arlene got lucky with TM giving her a dose of smelling salts to get her wobbly legs even to stand up in the middle of the ring with GE17. Her trainers rallied round the clock to patch her up again and by gawd she came out of the corner of the ring and caught her opponent with one hell of a left hook which send them rocking on the ropes ! As of today Arlene is Politically Untouchable !
    Maybe this should be an example to all that you do not spout off Red Lines in Public and put yourself on a (LEFT) hook ?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Don’t get too cocky, the DOE are pumping the Sh*t down Ormeau Avenue to the Cromac Street / Blackstaff Bridge Junction Outlet ! Enjoy the smell ?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    A political vacuum for a year in politics is a very long time John, especially with your troops not getting fed ? (How do you even know it will be 1 year – it could be 5 years ?). I tend to disagree that SF has time on its side ?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    They can paint butterflies up in the Felons Club ! Plenty of action in that ?

  • JOHN TURLEY

    The big mistake the Shinners made was they should have pulled down Stormont sooner,
    Martin McGuinness had become too tolerant,it was obvious the Sinn Fein electorate had
    lost their patience,The two elections and even the recent Lucid poll have given Adams a
    strong hand,All he has to do wait.The grubby deal is not welcome in England,The English
    media laughing at the D.U.P calling them crackpots.Lets all just wait and see what happens
    when the D.U P back Mrs May maybe with the border in the Irish sea.

  • JOHN TURLEY

    Gerry obviously is in tune with the people who vote for him.he is in a stronger position now than
    ever he was.People are walking away from the S.D.L.P at each election.he will not waste his time
    trying to sell this to his electorate. Let him wait and see what Brixit does.

  • Jag

    Ah now James, that’s a bit of coat trailing if you don’t mind me saying.

    Why not lump English into the Act giving English the same stature in this place as Gaelic, Polish, Russian, Spanish and what have you? Why should English be uniquely superior? Isn’t it arrogant to reserve for English a uniquely dominant place in society?

    Let’s be honest. Gaelic is a second language for a lot of people, mostly nationalist but it certainly crosses community barriers in places. It is the original language of this place. There are centuries’ worth of poetry & literature. It is a working language. It is unique.

    Don’t accept Gaelic has a unique place here, and you risk, as you suggest, all languages including English, being lumped together.

  • Granni Trixie

    Wouldn’t you have thought that Legacy issues were the sticking point? Looks to me that bigging up Arlene -as-Leader and ILA is to obscure that.

  • Granni Trixie

    I was in Dublin the other day and couldn’t helped noticing in OConnell Street that more people around me were speaking ‘foreign’ languages than English, and not one speaking Irish!

  • Granni Trixie

    Why you in denial. Outside Ni SF cult circles, Gerry is perceived as a joke.

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    Get real – that was a rather mild term for the Provo scvm.

  • JOHN TURLEY

    I doubt that will worry him.His support is still growing at each election
    people who supported thew S.D.L.P are now switching to Sinn Fein
    Thats success, He is a stronger position now than ever,.

  • Skibo

    I know. His leadership is questionable. The vote for Sinn Fein is at an all time low?
    Hold on, Sinn Fein at an all time low? something in your analysis does not hold water. Sinn Fein hold all Nationalist MP seats and are 1100 votes and one seat behind the DUP in the Assembly. Whatever he is doing wrong it is working. Long may it last.
    Could it just be that you are afraid of what he is going to do next and want rid of him?

  • james

    “Why not lump English into the Act giving English the same stature in this place as Gaelic, Polish, Russian, Spanish and what have you? Why should English be uniquely superior? Isn’t it arrogant to reserve for English a uniquely dominant place in society?”

    Bizarre argument. English is the language we all speak – what possible need for a language act to protect it?

    Is Englush ‘special’? No, not really – just that it is the one we all use, and the most useful one in real world terms.

    “There are centuries’ worth of poetry & literature. It is a working language. It is unique.”

    Sure (except for the working language bit, not sure about that). Same goes for Polish, Mandarin, Portuguese etc etc.

  • Skibo

    I am sure in Poland China and Portugal there is plenty of support for those languages but this is Ireland and Irish we are talking about.
    There is not Portuguese or Mandarin or Polish language in Scotland or wales but there are language acts in each of those countries to help the development of their native language.

  • mac tire

    Compromise is great. I’m all for it. That is what happens when you negotiate. You do not compromise on what you have already compromised on.
    If you and I made an agreement, Granni, and I acted in bad faith and tried to claw back on what I agreed with you, would you seriously be asking yourself “What else should I compromise on to make mac tíre happy? Maybe I should forget those agreements mac tíre made with me and make new ones because he no longer wants to keep to our previous agreement?”
    How would you trust me in any new agreement? What’s to stop me deciding in a year’s time that I just couldn’t be bothered keeping our new agreement?

    I suggest you ring SKY or some other some such and tell them you have decided that that contract you signed is no longer applicable and you are pulling out of it – and you’ll not be adhering to the small print you signed up for, where there will be a cost or consequences for you.

  • Granni Trixie

    Unfortunately trust has already gone on all sides. And in everyday life people renegotiate all the time to get on with things.

  • james

    “There is not Portuguese or Mandarin or Polish language in Scotland or wales but there are language acts in each of those countries to help the development of their native language.”

    Native languages. So you’re advocating an ‘Irish & Ulster Scots Language Act’ then.

    Fair enough, though it would be nice if it also had something in there for the Portuguese, Mandarin, Polish speakers among us.

  • We’reGonnaNeedABiggerBoat

    From my perspective, the Irish GF of a Northern Irish green voter, it seems to be this way:
    Sinn Fein seem to not need this deal at all.
    -If they go back into Stormont, it will be seen as a betrayal to the new and
    reinvigorated voters they gained in AE17. This opinion is held up by other posters
    on this thread like John Turley.

    -Ok, they don’t go into Stormont, and DR happens. Think of the media scrutiny on
    the Cons while allocating NI funds. They cannot afford to allocate money based on
    what the DUP will want. Labour will be all over anything remotely untoward like the
    proverbial fly.
    *to summarise this point, DR is very unlikely to be overly leaning toward the
    unionist/loyalist/presbyterian (not from here, but I think I get my point across).
    Obviously the Cons can see this way too, with the ‘threat’ as it may be from
    Brokenshire of “serious and profound implications” should power sharing not be
    restored. They’ll be squeezed on both sides by Labour and the DUP. Not ideal.

    – Labour will do everything they can to break up the deal. tabling motions for NI
    abortion and SSM reform. It’s a devolved issue when Stormont is running, but not
    during DR. These motions would cause serious strain between DUP and Cons,
    with the DUP probably expecting the Cons to ‘protect’ them. SSM in particular is
    something that the Cons can’t do, it’s always been a conscience vote, how would
    it look if they had to whip their 13 LGBT MPs into voting against? Moral is-DR
    more than likely means that NI gets SSM, through Labour. UK doctors are putting
    abortion reform back in the spotlight, another item that labour can ruffle the
    DUPs feathers with. They will focus on every little thing that may break up
    the unstable marraige.

    The DUPs nightmare would be NI being brought into line with the rest of the union, with Corbyn on the throne with Gerry directing Northern Ireland.

    I’m sure this is at least going through their mind, seeing as, to the best of my knowledge, any act would do a couple of months ago and now a sticking point is a ‘pure’ ILA.

  • Hugh Davison

    Can’t really say, as I wasn’t around 6000 years ago 😉

  • JOHN TURLEY

    5 years could be just right, Time for the border poll.

  • JOHN TURLEY

    Anybody who was watching the reaction of Margaret Ritchie at the count centre
    when she lost her seat knows well how successful Adams is at improving his party.

  • james

    Indeed.

    I was just wondering whether it be more offensive to call someone a crocodile or a dinosaur.

  • Skibo

    Add to that the influence of an Irish Government

  • Hugh Davison

    Well, offence is something that is more often taken than given, so really you have to call it and see what happens.
    Dinosaurs? Some people say they’re extinct, others say they’re still alive and called the DUP.
    Crocodiles? Arlene knows all about them. It’ll be interesting to see if, after a good feed from the magic money tree, she’ll be back any time soon looking for more.

  • Skibo

    Ulster Scots is a dialect, a link between Scots Gaelic, Irish and English. That is like saying that England should have a language act for Newcastle of Liverpool.
    The native language of Ireland north and south is Irish, first established 4500BC. Ulster Scots would be around 3-400 years old if you take into account the plantation. Indeed some say it only came into existence in 1998.

  • Skibo

    What other sections of the GFA or the SAA do you think we should renegotiate?

  • Granni Trixie

    Well, if we are to believe reporting, the sticking point is an ILA. I can’t believe there is not a formulae or form of words that could get each side over the line. There also needs to be good will to agree the costings which ofcourse is related to definitions and programme for action,

    But it would be foolish to go back without reforms to POC etc.
    All in all there is room for agreement. Except I don’t think SF want to do a deal.

  • Skibo

    If there is a stand alone ILA and a time table for a bill of rights, I think it could be got over the line. As for Arlene, there were reports in one Sunday paper about a Brexit job for her. Not sure where she could do the most damage, in the negotiations for Brexit or in Stormont?
    I think Simon Hamilton would make a good FM even though he could talk for Ireland, oh sorry Northern Ireland!
    I believe him and Michelle could work together. They both have an insight into health which is something which really needs to be addressed in the next couple of years.

  • Granni Trixie

    Didn’t know that bit about AF possibly moving on. She’d probably be happy to leave on a high plus it would alter the dynamics between the parties. Not to mention RHI probs post investigation.

    Talking of alternative jobs, look out for next honours list for whose going to HOL…Robinson, Donaldson or maybe something for AF?

  • james

    Oh, my mistake – I thought the point of the whole US&ILA was about respect for identity, wasn’t it?

  • Skibo

    Oh my mistake, I thought the only reason for inventing the Ulster Scots was to give some cover to a culture that only stood for marching bands and burning bonfires, that and to hold back an Irish language act!
    America is full of the term Scots/Irish but because the word Irish offends the Unionist community so much you call it Ulster /Scots.

  • grumpy oul man

    “Arlene is politically untouchable”
    Arlene could well be the Iceberg that sinks the tory ship.
    The english scots and welsh are not at all happy with the whole thing.
    And i suspect that a lot of DUP members will be less than happy if SSM and civilissed abortion rights are introduced here dispite Arlene having all this power.

  • grumpy oul man

    One minute Gerry is the overlord of SF who pulls the strings.
    Next dispite being the top man in the second largest party he has no mandate and no say.
    Arlene has no mandate in westminister save the one given to the party she leads do you think she should butt out of any talks about the Tory/ DUP deal?

  • james

    “One minute Gerry is the overlord of SF who pulls the strings.”

    Yes.

    “Next dispite being the top man in the second largest party he has no mandate and no say.”

    Gerry has no personal mandate, not having stood in this country for election.

    “Arlene has no mandate in westminister save the one given to the party she leads do you think she should butt out of any talks about the Tory/ DUP deal?”

    Arlene is an elected politician in the UK, and her party has seats, and uses them, in Westminster.

    Can you see the difference….

  • james

    Indeed. The Scots/Irish in the USA are indeed of the same branch of European heritage as the Ulster Scots – and both are distinct from modern day Irish people. Since most of the Scots Irish in the US went there prior to partition they became known as Scots Irish ie Scots who passed through Ireland (as it was then), before making their way to the New World.

    The Ulster Scots language (it is formally recognized as such – though I suppose it is a n offshoot of Scots) has evolved over centuries. It hasn’t been ‘invented’ this year any more than the Irish language has.

    And I’ll say again: what is wrong with a combined language act? If it’s about preserving culture it’ll be all the richer for the equal focus on Ulster Scots – a language which has made an interesting journey from the Scottish lowlands, through Ulster, and all through the USA and Canada.

  • james

    “Ulster Scots would be around 3-400 years old if you take into account the plantation.”

    Doesn’t make sense, I’m afraid. Unless you think the plantation folk all immediately dropped the language they’d previously spoken and all learned a new one on a rainy Tuesday c. 400 years ago in Antrim. Languages evolve.

    “Indeed some say it only came into existence in 1998.” And it is to counter breathtaking ignorance like that that a US&ILA would serve.

  • grumpy oul man

    Right so the leader of the DUP can be present at talks in westminister where she has no seat owing to DUP MPs being elected there but the leader of SF should have no say at stormount dispite having SF MLAs elected there.
    I have always loved the unionist concept of democracy.

  • james

    Westminster and Stormont are both seats of government in the United Kingdom. Arlene Foster was elected by UK citizens. Gerry Adams does not stand in UK elections, he stands in elections in a different country.

  • grumpy oul man

    And the unionist tradition for gerrymandering kicks in.
    Wouldn’t it be lovely if the world wenr the way you want it.
    Alas for you we nationlists see things a little different.
    But apart from your desire to decide who gets to have a say could you show me the legal or constitutional rules that supports your case.

  • james

    “But apart from your desire to decide who gets to have a say could you show me the legal or constitutional rules that supports your case.”

    Eh?

  • grumpy oul man

    You claim Gerry has no right to be there!proof please?

  • Skibo

    “Doesn’t make sense, I’m afraid. Unless you think the plantation folk all immediately dropped the language they’d previously spoken and all learned a new one on a rainy Tuesday c. 400 years ago in Antrim. Languages evolve.”
    So you are saying that Ulster Scots is not 3-400 years old?

    The Ulster Scots claim Rabbie Burns as speaking Ulster Scots but did he even set a foot in Ulster?
    In the end Ulster Scots is a mish-mash of lowland Scottish slang, Irish and English. Can it be called a language per-say?
    Irish is and has been about for centuries and is one of the oldest European languages.
    Do not mix the two.

  • Skibo

    James, it originated from the Scottish lowlands and Scotland doesn’t even have a act for it. Why must there be one here?
    Lowland Scots I could understand but Ulster Scots?

  • james

    What I’m saying is Adams has no mandate in the UK. He is an elected politician in Ireland.

  • james

    “Why must there be one here?”

    Well, yes, a lot of people do agree with you that a Language Act in NI is unnecessary.

    This is particularly so in our case as it could certainly be hijacked by the worst elements in our society to promote discrimination in employment.

  • grumpy oul man

    He is the leader of the second largest party, he has the same right to be at stormount as AF has to be at Westminster.
    That right comes from being the leader of a party involved in talks.
    Simple really.

  • james

    Simple, but wrong.

  • Skibo

    Chuckle chuckle ha ha. The “language” I referred to not requiring an act would be the Ulster Scots.
    if you look at polls now you will see the majority are now behind an Irish Language Act.
    The only ones hijacking the Irish Language are those who do not want an act.