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Process of Consulting Loses Sway

David Adams Irish Times, 5 August 2005

It is becoming clearer by the day that the British government believes the political institutions in Northern Ireland cannot be revived. Whether the judgment is that neither Sinn Féin nor the DUP is genuinely committed to reaching an agreement on power-sharing or, more charitably, that the gulf between them is so wide as to be unbridgeable is largely irrelevant.

With far more pressing matters than Northern Ireland demanding their full attention, the most obvious being the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks in Britain, it seems Tony Blair and his government are no longer prepared to waste precious time, energy and resources on the political equivalence of an irresistible force arm-wrestling with an immovable object.

Besides, from a British perspective the peace process, even as it stands, can only be considered a success. In the absence of a devolved Assembly it hasn't been as successful as it might have been, but with thousands of troops no longer bogged down here and peace of a sort established the situation is light years beyond what it once was. The "armed struggle" is at an end and the activities of militant republicanism now confined to a tiny, hermetically sealed, corner of the UK. With Sinn Féin continuing to expand its political base in the Republic it could even be argued that, in many respects, the problem of how to deal with "a vast criminal and political conspiracy" now rests with the Dublin administration.

Regardless of whether or not the political process can be put back on track, the peace process will be enhanced further still if the IRA lives up to last week's promises. So for the foreseeable future British attention will be focused almost exclusively on ensuring the IRA does indeed deliver.

To that end and within reason, the government will determinedly press ahead with whatever measures it deems necessary, irrespective of who it offends. This means that unionists are set to suffer frequent offence in the months ahead. A distinct change in emphasis has already been apparent from the speed and manner of the government's reaction to last week's IRA statement.

It is clear that consulting (never mind trying to reach agreement) with nationalists and unionists before taking decisions on sensitive or volatile issues is no longer of any great concern.

To pave the way for the IRA statement, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, ordered the release from prison of Shankill bomber Seán Kelly. He didn't bother giving advance notice of his decision to the relatives of Kelly's victims - arguably, something he was legally obliged to do - never mind to unionist politicians.

Like the relatives, the first they heard of it was on local television and radio news reports. Likewise, it was a BBC Radio Ulster current affairs programme, Talk Back, rather than army chiefs or government ministers that first informed members of the home-based battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment (some 3,100 people in total) that they would be made redundant in 2007. Neither the soldiers nor unionist politicians had been given any prior notice that such a decision was imminent. On Tuesday of this week, Peter Hain decided to extend by up to a year the terms of office of serving members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board. Established in 2001, the board was due its first revamp this coming October when, in line with the most recent Assembly election results of 2003, the DUP would have been entitled to claim a further two seats currently occupied by the Ulster Unionist Party.

As a result of Hain's decision, political membership will, instead, continue to reflect the results of the Assembly elections of 1998.

The DUP will still hold a minority share of the unionist seats even though it now represents a clear majority of the unionist electorate.

Peter Hain simply ignored strong protests from the DUP and went ahead with his decision.

Despite what they may say, neither Sinn Féin nor the DUP will be too discomfited by the prospect of the Assembly not being reinstated. Not least because the government assessment is right: for completely different reasons neither is interested in sharing power with the other.

With or without a working Assembly, Sinn Féin will continue its twin-track policy of creating instability in Northern Ireland while expanding its electoral base in the Republic.

You don't need the IRA or its weaponry to foment trouble around issues such as flags, parades or policing.

In the wake of Seán Kelly's release and the disbanding of the RIR battalions, the DUP, in line with a majority of the unionist electorate, will now be even less inclined, if that is possible, to share executive office with Sinn Féin.

They will content themselves, instead, with politics at Westminster and in Europe.

Unfortunately, the rest of us will just have to await the long overdue reorganisation of local government in Northern Ireland, with its promise of far fewer but much more powerful local councils, to deliver locally based, representative and accountable, democratic institutions.


Reprinted with permission from the author.






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

10 August 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Failed Entity
Anthony McIntyre

Towards Justice: Damien Walsh Lecture
Fr Sean Mc Manus

Where Terror Reigns
Fred A Wilcox

Lack of Trust — Or Courage?
Mick Hall

Process of Consulting Loses Sway
David Adams

Unionism Can't Run on Empey
Anthony McIntyre

Another Side to the Surrender
Brian Mór

Provisional Surrender A Sell-Out
Joe Dillon

The Greatest Betrayal of All
Proinsias O'Loinsaigh

Censorship at the Irish Echo
John McDonagh & Brian Mór

Take Ireland Out of the War: Irish Anti War Movement News
Michael Youlton

Venezuela: Factories Without Bosses
Tomas Gorman

1 August 2005

An Open Letter to Gerry Adams
Dolours Price

The Inevitable
Anthony McIntyre

PIRA Statement 'Neither Surprising nor Historic'
32 County Sovereignty Movement

'Provisional IRA Should Disband Completely'
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh

A Momentous, Historic, Courageous and Confident Statement
Jimmy Sands

When History Was Made
Brian Mór

Roundup on the IRA Statement
Liam O Ruairc

The Way of the Apache and Lakota
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Strange Bedfellows?
Eamonn McCann

Rewriting the Past to Suit the Present
Mick Hall

Shoot to Kill: Getting Away with State Murder
Eamonn McCann

Parents of the World Unite
Fred A Wilcox



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