Friday 22 January 2010

Policing and justice endgame (part 2)

Talks on justice powers with DUP over says Sinn Fein, the BBC has just announced.

Where now? Well, the first step comes tomorrow, when the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle meets to discuss the issue. So far the party is not making warlike noises – Gerry Adams has said that the "game was up, but not over".

But Sinn Féin faces a relatively difficult choice. The secret meeting between the English Tories, the UUP and the DUP last weekend was ostensibly about future arrangements in the Assembly (though this blog remains cynical about other items that may have been discussed). The timing of the pan-unionist meeting is strange, since the next Assembly election is not for over a year – unless some of the participants knew that there was little or no chance of agreement on the transfer of policing and justice, and that therefore an early Assembly election was quite likely.

Should Sinn Féin pull the plug on the current Assembly? There are arguments in favour of doing so: the DUP is reeling from the Iris Robinson scandal, the UUP and Tories are distracted by the upcoming Westminster elections, the SDLP is distracted by its leadership contest and, more strategically, it would not allow the pan-unionist grouping time to create an umbrella vehicle to out-number Sinn Féin in the Assembly and thus retain the symbolic First Ministership.

But arguments against pulling the plug are also strong: it would, of course, achieve nothing. It wouldn't bring P+J any closer, nor would it advance the nationalist cause in any way. On the contrary, it may allow dissident republicans to claim that Sinn Féin was failing its voters, and thus to take a share of the nationalist vote.

Having cried wolf so many times, Sinn Féin needs to show that there really is something behind its warnings. As this blog has argued before, this does not need to involve a collapse of the institutions or a new Assembly election – it could involve a phased slow-down of all Executive business, especially that of importance to unionists. In effect the result would be institutional collapse, but in slow-motion, thereby allowing the rest of the watching world to see and judge where the blame should lie.

We should see more clearly how things will shape up by Sunday.


bangordub said...

Great entertainment isn't it?

bangordub said...

I thought the Unionist parties wouldn't talk or discuss anything on the Sabbath.
What was going on with the Tories in the UK then?
Afternoon tea and buns perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Kieron says,

Horseman, have to disagree with you regarding SF pulling the plug, best to make a clean break, maximise electoral weakness of the DUP rather than wait another year for Assembly elections. More Assembly seats for SF strengthens their hand during negotiations and a bad result for the DUP weakens theirs.