The DUP is apparently trying to use the policing and justice issue to force changes in the Orange parades issue in its favour. In short, it is insisting on progress towards an Orange-friendly arrangement as a pre-condition.
This raises two different questions.
Firstly, if the DUP is trying to bundle issues, then why shouldn't Sinn Féin? If parades can be a pre-condition, then so can the Irish Language Act. In other words, if the DUP is trying to re-activate other issues, then why should they not all be re-activated?
Secondly, the DUP appear to be seeking an arrangement on parades along the lines of the interim proposals of the Strategic Review of Parading (the Ashdown review). 'Along the lines' is, of course, a somewhat vague description, and the DUP have not formally described what deviations from the Interim Report they are seeking. But the recommendations of the Interim Report are not, at first glance, very favourable for the Orange cause at all. In fact, one could describe them as requiring the Orange Order to be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world – they most certainly do not give the Orange Order much succour in its constant battle against treating nationalists as second-class citizens.
Sinn Féin are reported as resisting DUP efforts to replace the Parades Commission, but it should be noted that, for the party, parades seem to have a very low importance at the moment. It may have escaped the attention of most unionists, but Sinn Féin has had almost nothing to say about the parading issue for a number of years now. It is not a republican totem. So it is quite likely that Sinn Féin's attachment to the Parades Commission is strategic – the Interim Review of the Strategic Review of Parading does not propose anything that significantly weakens the position of nationalist residents, and may even, in some ways, strengthen it. So Sinn Féin may be very happy to accept the bulk of the Interim Report's recommendations as part of a broader deal with the DUP.
But having successfully got almost all players on its side over policing and justice, it would be foolish of Sinn Féin to swap progress there against something that it is fairly ambivalent about. The DUP has to accept the transfer of P+J – they know that, and so does Sinn Féin. So, to an extent that is banked. Sinn Féin should insist, as its quid-pro-quo for the implementation of the Interim Report recommendations, on a public commitment from the DUP on the Irish Language – preferably a commitment to an ILA, but if not, then something equivalent.
If the DUP tries to stall the transfer of P+J again on the pretext of the parading issue, it will show the watching world – particularly in London and Dublin – that it was playing a cynical game that had little to do with the actual transfer of P+J and more to do with simply trying to make political gains. The consequences of such cynicism will be heavy, given the public investment in the issue made by Gordon Brown, Shaun Woodward and Brian Cowen. If the DUP think that the probable future Tory government will be kinder to them, they may get an unpleasant surprise. However, if a future Tory government does take the DUP's side, the Assembly is finished, and with it the political careers of many unionists.
The DUP clearly thinks that it can extract more concessions from the governments as part of its acceptance of the transfer of P+J, but the reality may be that they may have to pay a price for those concessions too.