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So then, what’s that Plan B again? The Northern Irish Peace Process lurches onwards…but where? March 24, 2007

Posted 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?


1. tulipstairs - March 25, 2007

It’s interesting to see mixed signals coming from the DUP.

Jeffrey Donaldson was in Dublin recently and when he was asked if there was anything to stop him from going into powersharing with SF (this was just after the policing motion passed), he said “No”.

Then again, he also said that he was able to speak more freely in Dublin.


2. WorldbyStorm - March 25, 2007

That’s very telling tulipstairs. As someone noted here, never be more than one step ahead of your political support base. But is that even half a step?


3. tulipstairs - March 25, 2007

I think it’s quite a leap for most DUP members. They’ve to go from saying that they’ll go into government with the Shinners (a tactic which could be seen as mere concession extraction) to actually going into government with the bogeymen.


4. WorldbyStorm - March 25, 2007

It clearly is. I was reading up on the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and that point 1986-7 the DUP wasn’t willing to countenance power sharing with the SDLP. A long slow hard road.

But it has to be done.


5. franklittle - March 26, 2007

Just two points. Firstly, I don’t think the Corporation Tax thing is going to happen. Brown doesn’t want to do it and the Scottish and Welsh would demand the same right to adjust that tax if it was granted to the North. Labour’s too focussed on protecting the union, now seen as under greater threat from the SNP as anyone in the North. The review of the tax is simply to allow the DUP to save a little face.

Secondly, do not underestimate how badly Sinn Féin wants the Executive up and running. While Plan B would be more palatable to them than to the DUP, their overwhelming first preference is for the Executive to be back up and running and Sinn Féin Ministers to be on the television running into the election in the South.There is a slight suspicion that the DUP want to push back the Executive being up and running until after the election in the South to prevent Sinn Féin reaping the benefit. A touch of paranoia to that suspicion, but stranger things have happened in the wacky world of the peace process.


6. soubresauts - March 26, 2007

And both the DUP and SF are playing with Blair’s desperation to seal the deal before he retires…


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