Friday, January 05, 2007

Do you or don't you?

That was the message Martin McGuiness sent Ian Paisley this afternoon when he threw down the gauntlet. You could almost hear it. "So, Ian, what's it gonna be, boy?"

In the charade that is Northern Irish politics - at least among the party leaders - that great game of cat and mouse, of counter and counter-counter, what is the DUP's position? Let's remember: Paisley started this process off in Stormont with a speech that was as unequivocal as Paul Rankin is publicity-shy. Arguably, Blair has assembled all the hints, all the non-denials, and packaged them up into a statement which - I bet - was agreed with Sinn Féin from Florida as a straw man for Ian to be put under pressure to deny - or implicitly accept. Tactically, you gotta admire it.

Challenging Paisley to accept Blur's assessment or face the inconvenience of denying it, thereby implying duplicity in his own actions, also takes the heat off Sinn Féin and its undeniable difficulties in persuading its grass roots. So that too makes me smile a wry smile.

But, chess games apart, in truth I think we'd all like to know where the Doc stands. So, Ian: deal or no deal?

UPDATE: The DUP despatched Jeffrey Donaldson over the weekend to say that he reckons it's odds-on for a deal in 2007. I think we need to hear the Doc speak on this one, lest cynics see it as a watery placation by Mr Expendable.


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