Thursday, November 16, 2006

More fudge

Get this: the first two days of multiparty talks at St Andrews produce deadlock. On the final morning the British and Irish governments surprise them with a document which says "The DUP agrees to share power and Sinn Féin agrees to support policing and justice".
You'll remember I was pleased because I believe this is the only way to secure real political progress. But you'll also know I hate fudging, and that very afternoon, at the close of the conference and after some preliminary discussions about the surprise document, the NI parties each gave their press conference standing in front of a backcloth carrying the words "The St Andrews Agreement". The venue was arranged and paid for by the British government. Talk about railroading.
As I write, the parties are still debating internally whether they want to make these moves. I hope they do make them, and I'd address any conference or Ard Fheis to try and persuade them, but I'd never railroad anyone because a settlement for the people of Ulster will only last if they decide to go for it in their own time.
Now, apparently, the British government is about to introduce a bill to Westminster implementing the St Andrews Agreement. What St Andrews Agreement? I'm all for planning and preparation, but this is just another pathetic move to shoehorn all Ulster people into doing what they should be allowed to do in their own good time.
I hope we get on and do it but meanwhile, Tony, put your bit of paper on hold and turn your attention to getting out of Iraq or something.


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