Friday, 5 February 2010

Spin above substance. Northern Ireland is sold a pup.

So that’s it?

After a fortnight of work the so-called ‘Hillsborough Agreement’ (remember how great the last one was?) comprises twenty one pages and contains enough holes to sustain any number of mini-crises. We can only assume that this tacked together deal is underpinned by a network of behind the scenes arrangements between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

Which is precisely the reason why this type of set-piece has proved necessary in the first place.

With the UUP sitting out this morning’s proceedings, because the party had no input in the negotiations in the first place, the requirement of a functional executive is key to securing all-party support.

Ulster Unionist anxieties on this score will hardly be offset by a commitment to set-up a working group on ‘Improving Executive Function and Delivery’. Rather than undertaking to establish genuine coalition at Stormont, the DUP and Sinn Féin are handing the smaller parties an opportunity to talk about it.

And the working group and timetable established for parading isn’t a solution to that issue either. To be clear, I didn’t subscribe to the view that parades should hold up policing and justice talks to begin with, but clearly the symbolism of removing the Parades Commission has made the Dupes dizzy. There is no clear model here to put the matter to bed.

Underlying problems around the architecture and culture of power-sharing remain. Far from moving beyond the ’peace process’ we can resign ourselves to a politics based on peace-processing. I make my prediction now that the next impasse, the next mini-crisis, the next intervention from home and abroad will only be a matter of time.

With the two parties in charge who could predict otherwise.


Anonymous said...

Hmmmm.... wonder how you'll attempt to rewrite your thoughts when the UUP inevitably sign up to the agreement.

Chekov said...

There will be no attempt to rewrite my thoughts. I'll still maintain that it's been a waste of time and energy and that we'll still tootle along to the next crisis.

Jenny Muir said...

I agree - it's little more than a series of working groups

Anonymous said...

A series of working groups that will report in a fortnight. Hardly dragging it out is it?

Anonymous said...

Next time Owen Paterson gets up in the House to moan about UUP exclusion, people should remind him of the fact that throughout this process they have deliberately excluded themselves, for petty political purposes, culminating in Reg's hissy fit today.

Anonymous said...

Cameron approves. Patterson in his Newsnight interview specifically listed as one of the 'values' they wanted in potential partners was devolution of policing and justice.