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Extra Time Will Not Be Decisive


David Adams • Irish Times, 7 July 2006

The DUP and Sinn Féin will not agree to form an Executive by the November 24th deadline. Consequently, the British and Irish governments will then have to decide whether to go ahead with a threat to close the Assembly and stop all salaries and party allowances or allow time for further negotiation.

The governments must stick with the original plan.

No matter how much extra time Sinn Féin and the DUP have, they will still fail to reach agreement.

For very different reasons, neither party wants to share power with the other.

Helping to deliver political stability to Northern Ireland cannot be made to fit with the longer-term, all-Ireland ambitions of Sinn Féin.

For its part, the DUP will only take places in an Executive which does not include republican representatives.

Whatever the rhetoric and posturing, the sole concern of each party is that the other takes most of the blame for the inevitable failure in November.

It must be said as well that the two governments have a fixation with restoring the Assembly and Executive that is not shared by a majority of the people in Northern Ireland. They lost interest in the whole affair long ago.

The endless haranguing and arguing of politicians who cannot agree on anything of substance has taken its toll on many.

For yet others there is a distinct lack of confidence that their politicians would be capable of properly managing local affairs even if an Executive was to be formed.

The disastrous state of the Northern Ireland economy plays no part, as yet, in people's calculations.

For now, it is merely an abstraction which will only become apparent when, as is inevitable, the massive injections of peace money and extra government subventions begin to dry up.

Yet, even when that reality dawns, there is still no guarantee that the electorate will put pressure on their politicians to reach a deal.

The hard truth is that an election - whether tomorrow or after failure on November 24th - would again deliver the DUP and Sinn Féin as the predominant parties within their respective communities.

It can only be assumed, then, that at heart a majority of the Northern Ireland electorate agrees with the positions adopted by its representatives and is more comfortable with political deadlock than with compromise.

Whatever the reasons, the upshot is that people are quite happy to settle for a continuation of direct rule from Westminster.

Where, then, does all this leave the peace process? Well, in quite good fettle, actually.

Paramilitary violence, as we once knew it, is no longer a major problem.

Of course, much residue of decades of sustained conflict remains, with very high levels of organised crime and many communities still struggling under the yoke of paramilitary control.

As the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee pointed out the other day, there is still paramilitary involvement in the illegal smuggling of fuel and cigarettes, in the manufacture and sale of counterfeit goods, in people-trafficking and prostitution, illegal dumping, armed robbery and a host of other criminal enterprises.

Slowly but surely, though, this is being tackled, as support for the PSNI grows in nationalist areas and as more people on both sides seem willing to report incidents of violence, intimidation and extortion to the police.

To help accelerate this process of positive change, the operating guidelines of the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) should be changed to allow it to initiate its own investigations and take complaints directly from the public.

At present, the ARA can only investigate cases referred to it by the PSNI. Aside from anything else, this has created a level of public suspicion that the PSNI filter is sometimes used to protect police agents from having their financial affairs thoroughly investigated.

While sectarianism itself has not decreased in Northern Ireland, its overt manifestation in incidents of inter-community strife undoubtedly has.

Many social and criminal problems which require urgent attention undoubtedly remain, but at least they are now top of the policing and political agenda and not, as in the past, buried beneath a blanket of sustained terrorist activity.

Apart from the marked reduction in political violence and the gradual but undeniable loosening of the paramilitary grip, the single most important thing to emerge from the peace process so far has been the vastly improved, and ever-improving, relationship between the British and Irish governments. Never again should the extremes on both sides in Northern Ireland dictate how the two sovereign governments interact with one another.

While last Saturday's Somme commemoration in Dublin was the latest overt display of how the relationship has matured, less obvious is the large-scale co-operation which takes place constantly on security, policing and economic matters.

Island-wide collaboration by the forces of law and order is vital in the battle against, in particular, organised crime.

It would be preferable if the Assembly was resurrected, but it is by no means essential. It forms only one part of the Belfast Agreement, and the agreement itself is but one element in the overall peace process.

As we trundle slowly but inexorably towards failure on November 24th, we should remain conscious of the many reasons we have to feel optimistic.

Reprinted with permission from the author.


























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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

9 July 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Father Faul Saved Many Lives
Richard O'Rawe

Richard O'Rawe, PSF, and Events in 1981
Gerard Foster

Looking Back on 1981
Anthony McIntyre

Haughey and the National Question
Maria McCann

Brits Not to Blame for Haughey
David Adams

John Kennedy

Euston Manifesto: Yesterday's News
Mick Hall

Considering A Multi-Faceted Approach to the Middle East
Mehdi Mozaffari

Book Better Than Its Title
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Crowning Mr Unionist
Dr John Coulter

Extra Time Will Not Be Decisive
David Adams

'Pretty Much a Busted Flush'
Anthony McIntyre

John Kennedy

Just Books Web-launch
Jason Brannigan

The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Omagh, David Rupert, MI5 & FBI Collusion
Marcella Sands

The Framing of Michael McKevitt
Marcella Sands

The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Preliminary Hearings
Marcella Sands

Jury Duty Free State
Dolours Price

Even the Obnoxious
Anthony McIntyre

2 July 2006

Anthony McIntyre

Salvaging History from Defeat
Forum Magazine Editorial

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
Dolours Price

Monsignor Denis Faul: Tribute
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh

Protest Continues in Maghaberry
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What's Shaking
John Kennedy

Left, Right, Left, Right Wrong
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Irish Democracy, A Framework for Unity
Francis Mackey

The Peace Progress and the State
Davy Carlin

'The Church Brought to its Knees': Two books on Catholic Ireland's retreat
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Somme Battle Conspiracy
Dr John Coulter

March March March
John Kennedy

What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander!
Patrick Hurley

Sovereignty Movement Condemns Racist Attacks
Andy Martin, 32 CSM

Greens Propose Plastic Bag Tax to Help Fund Environment Watchdog
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The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Introduction
Marcella Sands

The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Garda Harassment & Eventual Sitch-up
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Dolours Price

Judas 118 or DUP Strategy of Subversion?
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