Wednesday 10 February 2010

Sinn Féin's commitments on parading

Peter Robinson told the Northern Assembly yesterday 'he would walk away from the Hillsborough Castle agreement if Sinn Féin did not meet its commitments on parading'.

What exactly were Sinn Féin's commitments on parading?

The Hillsborough Agreement is quite clear:

To set up a co-chaired working group comprising six members, appointed by them, with experience of dealing with parading issues ….
Already done.

… which will bring forward agreed outcomes which they believe are capable of achieving cross community support for the new and improved framework. This work will begin immediately and will be completed within three weeks.
This imposes a commitment on both sides to seek 'cross community' solutions; i.e. there must be give and take on both sides.

The First Minister and deputy First Minister will promote and support the agreed outcomes of the working group.

This is a given, if the working group, which contains three members of the FM's and three members of the DFM's parties, reaches agreement.
Following the completion of the consultation process a Bill will be finalised.
Again, if there is agreement, this will not be contentious at all.
The First Minister and deputy First Minister will support all necessary steps in the Assembly to ensure that the Bill completes all stages before the end of 2010. In parallel the First Minister and deputy First Minister will take the necessary steps to enable the reclassification of parades as a transferred matter.
Again, not be contentious at all.
We will promote and support direct dialogue with, and the involvement of, representatives of the Loyal Orders, band parade organisers, local residents’ groups and other stakeholders, as this work is advanced. We will also encourage the participation of local elected representatives in the process of resolution. This work will start as soon as possible.
Since Sinn Féin has always supported this, and it was the Orange Order that refused face-to-face dialogue, it's hard to see this causing a problem for Sinn Féin.

So, cutting all the non-contentious issues, what Peter Robinson is saying is that the working group 'must bring forward agreed outcomes which they believe are capable of achieving cross community support for the new and improved framework', or he will resign. And he appears to be already trying to blame Sinn Féin for that!

Robinson is thus, after barely one day of the working group's work, accusing Sinn Féin of intending to block 'agreed outcomes'. On what basis is he doing this? Has he already pre-determined the outcomes (that he wants) and decided that they should be the final outcomes? In which case it is he, and not Sinn Féin, who is already signalling an intention not to compromise and thus to thwart the possibility of 'agreed outcomes'.

In truth, though, what Robinson is probably doing is trying to sound tough, in the light of the clear belief amongst many unionists that the Hillsborough Agreement was a climb-down by the DUP, and a clear win for Sinn Féin. By making it look, in advance, as if it is Sinn Féin that has to cede ground on Orange marches, he is trying to give the impression that the unwritten balance of the Agreement was more even – policing and justice for Sinn Féin, and Orange marches for the DUP.

The problem for Robinson, of course, is that the work of the working group has already been severely limited by the Agreement. In paragraphs 3 and of Section 2 the Agreement basically mandates the working group to agree with the Ashdown review, a proposal which is, if anything, nationalist-friendly – certainly in comparison with anything that the Orange Order wanted.


Dazzler said...

Is it possible for the DUP to reverse the devolution of policing and justice if there is disagreement over parading after April 12th?

"News Letter understands that the DUP leader told his party that the device would be two-pronged:

1) If republicans drag their feet on the review of parading, the DUP will not allow devolution of policing and justice to go ahead on April 12;

2) If Sinn Fein initially goes along with the review of parading but then objects to the abolishment of the Parades Commission after policing and justice powers are transferred, the DUP will collapse the Executive, immediately sending all powers back to Westminster".

Anonymous said...

Kieron says,

Dazzler, cant see how they can 'reverse' anything only collapse the assembly which Allister is now pointing out is HIS policy which the DUP have been saying is ill-advised.


there seems to a lack of clarity about "… which will bring forward agreed outcomes which they believe are capable of achieving cross community support for the new and improved framework. This work will begin immediately and will be completed within three weeks."

This clause seems to not make sense, as how can you have 'agreed outcomes' from an 'improved framework' which is not in place yet? Very poor English or deliberately ambigious?.

If this only means agreeing a new mechanism to replace the paraders commission then Police and Justice will already be devolved and both SF and the DUP can argue that the new arrangements will benefit their community. If by 'agreed outcomes' the DUP want to make it clear that a particular march would obviously go ahead under the new arrangements then SF will surely not accept this.

The BBC spotlight program threw absolutely no clarity whatever on this issue in spite of devoting the full program to the issue and having access to all the relevant players.

To use one of the BBC favorite cliches, fudge is probably the most likely outcome as you were suggesting.