Sinn Féin have been flagging up for months how unhappy they are with the current political situation. The original ‘guideline’ date for the devolution of policing and justice was way back in May. An Irish Language Act seems unlikely in the near future either. There was some optimism when the party and the DUP announced that they had agreed on one the concept of one Justice Department and a non DUP or SF Minister. However, the issue is a long way from resolution. Alliance ruled out the idea of taking the Ministerial post in any new Department and the other parties soon start quibbling about whether there could be more that 10 Departments and whether under d’Hondt it was the SDLP’s ‘turn’.
It may be that Sinn Féin has been more uneasy by the announcement that the International Monitoring Commission is to report in September on the status on the IRA’s Army Council. Should it report the Army Council’s continued existence, in the eyes of the DUP, this would rule out movement on policing and justice for the foreseeable future. The DUP would certainly not want to see anything happen this side of the European elections, if there is no movement on this come September.
The accepted wisdom appears to be that Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin need to appear to be ‘delivering’ something if they are to keep their supporters contented. In the meantime, the party continues to block ‘normal’ business at Executive level and Gerry Adams says that the British and Irish governments must introduce new arrangements, if power-sharing at Stormont fails. Unfortunately for Mr Adams, the Irish Government is more concerned about its economy and the Lisbon Treaty than ‘the North’ these days. Gordon Brown and Labour’s problems are too many to mention but suffice to say Northern Ireland isn’t anywhere near the top of their concerns either.
With the two government’s attention elsewhere and the DUP in no hurry to move, the stalemate looks set to continue. Sinn Féin’s options, beyond bringing the whole carefully constructed edifice down (the ‘mutually assured destruction’ option), seem very limited.
With another Westminster by-election pending and Gordon Brown’s grip on power looking more tenuous by the day, Sinn Féin strategists will surely be thinking about a 2009 General Election and whether an incoming Conservative administration would be any more receptive to their concerns than the present one.