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Were there any policing and justice side deals?

By Noel McAdam

Reports persist of ‘side deals’ emerging from the tortuous talks which produced the Hillsborough Agreement. We are well used to them here.

Aware that straight denials sometimes only fuel speculation, the DUP is playing the idea down.

But Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey is convinced there were side deals and believes he knows what some of them may be. Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister, however, thinks there may be little of real substance — and if there is it will be to spare the blushes of the 14 DUP MLAs who voted against the deal as it stood last Monday.

Even some of the items in the ‘Castle concord’ — such as the £20m compensation for former RUC reservists — can also be regarded as the product of “side deals” within the negotiations.

Insidious they may be, but side deals are a significant feature of politics everywhere.

Parties may wish to create the illusion of side deals, particularly in circumstances where they have reason to believe their support base may be unsettled.

The whole of the St Andrews Agreement has been regarded as a proposed series of side deals — not to mention the six items Ian Paisley jnr managed to introduce, as side deals to the side deals.

It led to embarrassment for the party when St Andrews documentation was unearthed and Paisley jnr finally resigned as a junior minister. Side deals are supposed to be in the politicians and party’s interest, apart from their constituency.

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