Friday, October 13, 2006

The Agreement that never was

Didn't you just love the banner behind the post-talks speechers in Scotland this afternoon that read "The St Andrews Agreement"? At least Reg Empey had the presence of mind to point out that, actually, no binding agreement had been reached.

Looks like the UK government - ever spin-happy - had prepared to parade some great victory (a seismic shift, perhaps?) by having the banner made, but in the end it was just a few extra public pounds flushed soundly down the drain.

Begs the question, what did these talks achieve? Well, it's too early to say. First signs are there was a lot of talking, flitting from room to room in a posh hotel, a lot of plenary sessions, a lot of feeling important and a lot of toeing party lines, but in the end there were no signatures on any agreed text, so the objective was missed.

In the end, the two governments presented the parties with a document they feel presents a workable way forward, and that document centres around two things: Sinn Féin accepting the authority of a properly controlled police and the criminal justice system, and the DUP accepting that Sinn Féin are now constitutional enough to have a say in things.

The parties' final press conference was flatter than a pancake, and I just hope it was because the players were all worn out. Gerry Adams sounded despondent. The only two who seemed enlivened were Reg Empey and Mark Durkan, both of whom made impressive noises in the direction of reconciliation. (For the parties' reactions see here).

Whether St Andrews will go down in the annals of history or the anals of history will be down to Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley in November. Watch them closely, and watch their deputies too. The mood today shows that they can both accept the governments' paper, but - so often in the past - no sooner do they leave a posh talks location but they start to slip back into the old broken-record routine. It's a groove they need to stay away from.

A parting thought: it strikes me there's something a bit childish in the way all those politicians keep lapping up the attention of the governments and the media. It's as if they thrive on it like schoolboys. Maybe it's addictive. The "will they or won't they" routine has them right in the spotlight, and they love it. But what will happen if they reach an agreement? Will anyone be interested in the wee island off the northwest coast of Europe? And does that give them a reason for intransigence?

Roll on the day when, for all the right reasons, we become world news 'nobodies'.

1 Comments:

At 4:05 a.m., Anonymous bill said...

Basically, a bunch of politicians putting the best spin possible on the meeting (don't they always?) in order to justify more idle feeding at the public trough. Although Mark Durkan had some nice sentiment, they all need their mouths washed out with soap.

 

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