So then, what’s that Plan B again? The Northern Irish Peace Process lurches onwards…but where? March 24, 2007Posted by WorldbyStorm in Democratic Unionist Party, Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin, Ulster.
Strange days indeed when according to media reports Paisley is ready to do the business but some of his lieutenants are either less so, or simply won’t, and that’s some 90% voting for a deferral until May.
Is it shadowboxing? Is this the optics of the final round, the point where Paisley is portrayed as the more ameliorative figure barely able to contain those around him in order that they can extract just one more concession, one more guarantee?
And the concessions are coming thick and fast. £1 billion promised by London and Dublin as a means to sugar the pill. A promised review of corporation taxes which might bring the North into line with the very heaven that is the South. And it’s still not enough.
Actually on that point alone, isn’t this weird? Ian Paisley wants to see NI adopt the same tax rate as the rest of the island, but demands that NI remain within the Union. Surely this sort of policy is in effect just the thing to weaken the Union as next up Scotland or Wales adopt different economic policies thereby leaching economic power from London.
How much more to make it stick? SF has rhetorically moved further than the Árd Fhéis motion with Gerry Adams supporting the PSNI. I don’t blame them or him, in fact I think it’s pretty good politics in strategic terms – and. This should smoke out the DUP for once and for all. And arguably it could wreak havoc politically on the DUP if they don’t make the move. For them splendid isolation is not something I suspect their voters (particularly their more newfound ones) will like very much.
That centre ground ballast within Unionism which has tipped towards them may well tip against them and back towards the UUP (particularly if London holds it’s nerve and actually asks them, the voters, to stump up the costs that not entering Stormont and not getting the financial package will result in). That’s a real problem for the DUP because once your base widens out it begins to diffuse ideologically and incorporate people who, for example, aren’t quite as fixated on the fundamental tenets – which as any socialist fule no is the reason parties generally shift towards the centre eventually (and is the reason RSF keep a lid on such things). Not that that isn’t a characteristic of PSF. But somehow they give the impression of being remarkably sanguine about it. Somehow, somewhere, some of the old Marxist determinism has rubbed off on them albeit not in specific ideology.
Perhaps they’re sanguine enough to sweat it out until May. And the rather pitiful DUP, deluded enough to think that that will make a difference. Hoping against hope that somehow SF will slip, that PIRA will do something that can set this back months if not years. That some great point is being made and no great principle being conceded if they do get their six weeks. I think they’ll be disappointed.
And for SF it’s not the be all and end all. Sure, they want the GFA implemented in full. But Plan B, a sort of souped up AIA, or something short of joint authority but close to it will probably do quite nicely for now. And in all honesty why not? For them they can say, look we did everything we could and more and Unionism was unable to sit down and work with us. Who now looks intransigent?
But even should this work, and that’s hardly guaranteed, one could ask how long can it last? And hot on the heels of that question is, one can also ask what other alternative is there? And the problem is I keep thinking the answers are not long, and there isn’t, and probably it doesn’t really matter much anyway.
Or does it? One of the reasons Stormont MkI collapsed was the manner in which it was almost completely indifferent (if not often actively hostile) to Nationalism. The spasm of violence that ensued marked a depth of alienation on the part of Nationalism from the structures of Northern Ireland. That alienation sustained prolonged armed violence within the North. Here we see Republicanism conceding much ground. The simple unwillingness of elements within Unionism to engage constructively with Republicanism and Nationalism is an echo of that earlier indifference and hostility (and really, when Reg Empey is saying the DUP should get on with it you know we’re in a different world). Without tending towards the apocalyptic such an approach is dismally counterproductive.
Time to look at the big picture.
Will they, won’t they?