Friday, 4 July 2008

Devil still in the detail

There is a well known joke that our local politicians have been negotiating for so long that if you offered them a cup of coffee, their retort would be: “Well let’s just look at the options without committing just yet”. Sinn Féin are the most notorious for constantly negotiating. However, one gets the feeling that if you offered any of our local parties a straight forward, honest deal that benefited them, they would be unable to overcome the fears and suspicious bred by our troubled political history and the constant deal-making.

Meanwhile, the DUP and Sinn Féin continue to haggle over the ‘choreography’ or presentation and ‘sequencing’ or timetable of a deal relating to the devolution of policing and justice. Like all the other deals down the years, this deal will not be about one issue and it will be a case of “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

This week, First Minister Peter Robinson apparently indicated that the DUP would not accept a Sinn Féin Justice and Policing Minister but would accept a SDLP or Alliance Minister. He also apparently signaled a willingness to see this happen sometime in the next 12 months.

Like all politicians, Robinson’s thoughts are focused on elections. So when he says sometime in the next 12 months he probably means sometime next June, after the European election. Unfortunately for the DUP, the European election is the one type of election in which one strong personality can score disproportionately well – as Northern Ireland has only one European Parliamentary constituency. Ian Paisley, of course, built his political success on the back of the European election as his former Director of Elections, Peter Robinson, will be only to aware.

Will a commitment to a SDLP or Alliance Minister for next June be enough for Sinn Féin or more accurately will this be enough to keep the DUP’s support base happy?

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