Friday, December 04, 2009

Now Sinn Fein are Threatening the SNP Tactic

Yesterday I blogged about the bankers at RBS using the SNP tactic of not just taking the ball away, but themselves out of the game if their bonuses of £1.5 bn (25% of profits) are turned down by Government. Today I see that Martin McGuinness the Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland is threatening, in coded language, that the same may happen in Northern Ireland over the timing of devolution and justice to Stormont.

I say coded message so let me decipher, McGuinness says that the institutions are unsustainable without a date for devolution of policing by Christmas. You may think so what if you are not Northern Irish, but that is code for all the institutions of devolution, not just cross-border agencies but also the Assembly and the dual mandate of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. Devolution of policing has always been one of the major stumbling blocks in fully implementing the Good Friday Agreement. After all Sinn Féin and their military were never going to be likely to be on friendly terms with the force that was arrayed against them throughout the Troubles. So this has been the longest, hardest and most painstaking march towards a peaceful, settled Northern Ireland there has been.

However, it is one of those rare occasions that I agree with the DUP Jeffrey Donaldson. I quite often have found the man objectionable in the past, but he is correct when on the BBC this morning I heard him say that setting deadlines in stone was something that should never be done in Northern Ireland politics, but that the best settlement for all sides should be worked out. If that is done by Christmas then that is fine, however if it is not Sinn Féin should not arbitrarily walk away from all the progress that has been made.

There are signs that a consensus is almost settled on the first Justice Minister under this period of devolution. David Ford the Alliance party leader looks set to gain the cross-community support to take on that role. Now the politicians need to reach agreement over policing and McGuinness is right in that it has to cover equality issues. But with only three weeks to Christmas and probably less that two of those productive setting a Christmas deadline for a resolution is ludicrous so close to that date. Even Tony Blair over ran on his deadline to get the Agreement signed off initially.

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