Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What's the problem ...

... with the statement by the "DUP 12"?

A few hours after Ian Paisley told the Assembly he would share power if Sinn Féin gave their sustained support to policing and justice authorities in Northern Ireland - before they were rudely interrupted - the 12 DUP MLAs issued a press release saying "Nothing that we have said or done today can be taken by the Government as an indication that they can imply Shadow, Designate or any other status to anyone in relation to the Office of First and Deputy First Minister"

Well obviously. Either you have an Assembly, and executive officers, or you don't. There's no designate or shadow status either permitted or required under current legislation and, if there were, it'd be pointless. The statement was made to pre-empt the UK Government talking up Paisley's statement, giving it a kind of Blur-ite spin the Doc never intended. But the Government spin never came (probably due to brainpower being taken up by the Michael Stone débacle), thus making the DUP statement look strange and out of context.

Sinn Féin supporters were quick to suggest a split in the party ranks, but that's just old-style divide-and-rule tactics. Broken-record stuff.

Paisley is ready and waiting for Sinn Féin to join him in government once they've given that support. I think that's fair enough - certainly no more than any other country would require. And if Sinn Féin wants to change policing strategy, tactics or the colour of their uniforms, let them take their rightful places on the Policing Boards and apply their democratic influence within that framework.

To Republicans I say: the DUP is shifting ground and they'll move more quickly without the mudslinging.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Another Tele blooper

The Belfast Telegraph used to be a respected newspaper, but now it's tabloid rubbish and it's got journalists to suit.

Reporting on Michael Stone's ridiculous, scandalous pseudo-terrorist would-be attack on democracy at Stormont this morning, the Tele reminds us of his first atrocity, the Milltown Cemetry murders when, "He killed one member of the IRA, along with two civilians ..."

The comma is ungrammatical, and any decent journalist knows an IRA member is also a civilian.


We all knew today was the day, but we didn't know what the Doc was going to say. Power-sharing or not? Not yet, says Paisley, because Sinn Féin hasn't committed to support the PSNI and the rule of sovereign law. But ...

"If and when commitments are delivered, the DUP would enter government".

This is the first time we've heard that from the DUP, and for the words to come from its leader shows we're now on our way to devolved government. Gerry Adams will know this and, if he's Big, now set about convincing the opinion makers in the Republican movement to support the Ard Chomhairle in moving forward.


The day will come, I hope and pray, when men lead their families in Godly ways by example. When they teach their children respect. When they regard opponents as equals. When they persuade by the power of their arguments, not of their muscles. Michael Stone, you're a dinosaur. (Story here, if anyone's interested).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hugh gets it right

Responding to the Sinn Féin leadership's assertion that they're under increased threat from dissident republicans, the PSNI Chief Constable has said he agrees that's true.
He goes on: "Because of where the leadership wants to take their organisation, which is down a political and an entirely proper route towards a debate on the future of the island of Ireland, there are people who don't want that to happen. They'd far rather do what they've done in the past, which is violence". Quite right.
The "entirely proper route towards a debate on the future of the island of Ireland" is well phrased. Much as I hate to admit any Englishman is capable of any accurate pronouncement on Irish politics, maybe Hugh is one of the few in the league of those who can. Time will tell.

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.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Straight talker

I see the former deputy leader of the Alliance party, Seamus Close, is to retire. On the two Governments' strategy to shoehorn the DUP and Sinn Féin into a coalition government he says using a "sticking plaster" won't work:
"Trimble and Mallon were decent guys and but they couldn't agree and that will be even worse with Sinn Fein and the DUP ... It's not sustainable and the people of Northern Ireland are going to once more be put through the mill. In my heart I know that this is not going to work - it's Alice in Wonderland politics - a lot of fudging to produce what?"
I agree ... to an extent. Blur and Ahern are definitely fudging, and I'm glad Mr Close has the courage to call a spade a spade. But I'm an optimist and I think it can work if SF commits to the authority of the NI police and justice systems and the DUP decides to become democratic.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Tim has lost it

One of my best reads this year has been Tim Collins' autobiography. I read it for the insights into the ridiculous war in Iraq and into the mind of a man with impressive leadership skills, whatever you or I might think of his loyalty to the UK.
Bored with nothing to do, Tim has now called for the UK death penalty to be restored as a deterrence to would-be terrorists. Good Lord, what's he smoking? Anyone with 10% of Tim's experience and strategic ability will tell you terrorists are never put off by the prospect of death. Arab suicide bombers are an obvious example, but look also at the attitudes of IRA terrorists in the last century. They were unrepentant all the way to the gallows or the firing squad and latterly even thought nothing of starving themselves to death.
Violence has been part of Irish life since time immemorial - in the home and outside it - whenever Irishmen can't see another way to get what they want. As witness the current danger posed by breakaway republicans (yes, the small 'r' is intentional). The only way to deal with such latent violence is complex, involving education, social betterment, local political representation and centering Ulster's people around a common set of values and goals. That's why I support a written constitution for Northern Ireland.
Be Big, Tim. Wake up.