Friday 5 February 2010

Some initial thoughts on the Agreement

Following the five-heading structure of the agreement:

1. Policing and Justice

There is a date for transfer – 12 April – that is far sooner than the political lifetime promised by some DUP representatives.

There is no built-in exclusion of Sinn Féin from the Justice Ministry, so while the Alliance Party's David Ford may be appointed next Monday, after next year's Assembly election the post is open to any party according to the D'Hondt system, including Sinn Féin. And should this happen, any Executive consideration of a decision of the justice minister can only happen if the FM and DFM acting jointly require it. So assuming Sinn Féin hold at least one of those positions, a Sinn Féin Justice Minister would have full autonomy!

2. Parades

Basically there will be an intense three-week working group that will tweak the Ashdown interim proposals, but the key wording of the Agreement is not Orange-friendly. It requires respect for the rights of residents, and promises freedom from sectarian harassment. As with the Ashdown proposals, the eventual outcome will fall very far short of what Orange Order fanatics have wanted in the past.

3. Improving Executive Function and Delivery

Essentially a sop to the minor parties, who will co-chair a 'working group' that will simply make recommendations.

4. Outstanding Executive Business

A logical catch-up exercise to deblock a lot of the non-contentious items stuck in the Executive. Hardly contentious!

5. Outstanding Issues from St Andrews

"The First Minister and deputy First Minister will provide a report to the Executive by the end of February detailing the level of progress made on each outstanding matter".

Pretty obvious code for progress on the Irish language. Other items "which have not been faithfully implemented or actioned" include the Committee of the Centre, the Efficiency
Review Panel, the North-South Parliamentary Forum, and the independent North/South consultative forum, as well as other minor things. This section is certainly not DUP-friendly

Conclusion: the DUP have buckled, at least in terms of their 'smash Sinn Féin' rhetoric of the past. This Agreement does not, in any way, discomfit Sinn Féin or nationalism, but it requires considerable pull-back by the DUP.

If the terms of the Agreement are adhered to, the future should see progress on the Irish language, more north-southery, and may even see a Sinn Féin Justice Minister in 16 months. At the same time there is no provision for the Orange Order to march where they wish, or any mention whatsoever of 'voluntary coalition'.


Dazzler said...

Interesting to hear the TUV reaction to the deal

Horseman said...


I don't know whether to be pleased or worried about the fact that this blog appears to share a lot of its analysis with the TUV ...

And, if you ckeck out A Tangled Web, you'll see that David Vance (also TUV) has had the same thoughts of Chamberlain at Munich. Mine was first, though, so if anyone is copying anyone it wasn't me!

Anonymous said...


It seems to me that having witnessed the hard won (in terms of time and effort) zenith of the DUP, we will possibly now witness its its nadir. It could happen within the next 2 elections.

Having taken the reigns of power, it had no choice but to grasp the nettle of P+J. Chances are, like someone getting caught up in a PTO, they will be spewed out with huge wounds much like what they done to the UUP.

If this project fails and the new administration collapses, will we be looking at the TUV in the same position in 10/15 years.

Will the even closer demographic time bomb focus Unionist minds then?

Dazzler said...

The agreement states that the working group will complete its work and report to the FM/DFM on the "agreed outcomes" by Feb 23.

Does anyone know what "agreed outcomes" might mean because I haven't a clue and it seems to be vital to the whole deal on parading.

Ulick said...

Horseman, the Justice minister will be appointed by cross community concensus until 2012 and into the term of the next Assembly, so there won't be a SF minister for at least 5 years.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why you have such a devotion to the Irish language. I don't think it is feasible or worthwhile to revive it. I would concentrate on matters more central to Irish peoples' lives. Ireland gains a lot from being part of the 'Anglosphere'.

hoboroad said...

Margaret Richie is the new leader of the SDLP.

Paddy Canuck said...

I think a balance can and should be struck on parading. I don't see why it shouldn't go on where it's appropriate and appreciated by most of the spectators; clearly, the problem comes not from parading per se but in the insistence in parading in certain areas. It's clear to me that appeals to "traditional routes" is a smokescreen for the reality of claiming a right to provoke and use that "right" as an excuse to blame others when the bait is taken. Parade, by all means; celebrate your heritage and proclaim your identity... but if you would demand respect you are obliged to show respect in turn. Don't parade where parades are clearly unwelcome.

I'd chime in on the Irish language, too. It strikes me as a strange thing to put so much emphasis on... while I'd be loathe to see it lost, it seems anachronistic to focus on some kind of widespread revival. As remarked elsewhere here, Ireland is well-served as part of the Anglosphere... Dublin is not "foreign" to someone like me in the way that Paris or Berlin would be. Again, a balance should be struck... maintain the life and knowledge of the language, but... does Ireland really need to be another cultural Israel?

Horseman said...

Paddy Canuck,

What you say makes good sense, but on the Irish language I think you're seeing the trees rather than the wood. Of course it is unlikely that we will all be speaking Irish any time soon, but what galls nationalists is the refusal by (some/most) unionists to accept that the Irish gaelic part of our heritage is a valid and important part. Of course we speak English most of the time, but our sense of self includes a historical part, and that part includes the Irish language. Trying to block any expression of that causes more than just annoyance, as it appears to be an attempt to 'cleanse' the past from our consciousness. We are more complex than that - Year Zero didn't work in Cambodia, and it cannot work in a part of the world as history-obsessed as Ireland.

I doubt if anyone is looking for complete equality between EN and GA, but many are looking for a recognition that GA is part of our heritage and has a valid part to play in modern-day Ireland.

Anonymous said...

Funny that the Unionists are so focused on parades? I mean they are heading towards minority status and most of the U.K. would like to sever the connection and they focus on such trivial issues. I mean I can see focusing on health-care, schools, jobs etc, but parades? N.I. is such a strange little place....I guess it just shows how powerful Identity (tribal) politics really is. The blog writer's defense of Irish is the mirror image of the Unionist defense of their parades.