Sinn Fein has picked the DUP's 'triple lock'
Far from being a victory for Peter Robinson, the Hillsborough Agreement marked a nadir for unionism. It won't be the last time he caves in to republicanism, argues Jim Allister
Published 12/02/2010 | 08:00
Peter Robinson's avoidance in yesterday's Belfast Telegraph of the substance of Hillsborough is confirmation of just how bad a deal it is for unionism.
Of course, when you are foolish enough to negotiate under duress, such an outcome is hardly surprising.
The truth is Sinn Fein had the gun to the DUP's head and, rather than face an election, they rolled over and delivered the Sinn Fein agenda. This is the reality for a once-strong Peter Robinson now impotently joined at the hip with Martin McGuinness.
Removing policing and justice from London on to the island of Ireland has long been a strategic republican objective.
Their 2005 manifesto bluntly expressed it thus: "Our strategy is for a new all-Ireland policing and justice system.That cannot be achieved without the transfer of policing and justice powers away from London, into an Executive and Assembly and the all-Ireland institutions."
Thus, securing policing and justice into their terrorist-inclusive Executive is pursuit of the same British disengagement agenda which justified, for them, their IRA's murder of hundreds of policemen and several judges.
So, getting an early date, as they demanded, was a big Sinn Fein win, made all the sweeter by the securing of a veto on operation of the Justice Department.
With every piece of justice legislation and all funding to the department having to pass through the Executive, Sinn Fein, through its veto, can exert control, just as it has done through capricious blocking of papers for months from other departments as part of its pressure to secure policing and justice.
But the Sinn Fein win does not end there.
They also secured very important concessions on the Irish language and north/southery.
The working group tasked to action outstanding St Andrews issues will now embed into the process the promise of action on expanding the north/south bodies, a north/south parliamentary forum and civic forum, as well as enhancement for Irish, whether through a strategy or an Act.
Thus, all these pet Sinn Fein projects now germinate as their new shopping list when Sinn Fein next needs to bring the process to the brink, if not satisfied with the pace of delivery.
Far from policing and justice being the completion of devolution, it is for Sinn Fein but a staging post. Having succeeded so comprehensively at Hillsborough, it won't be the last time Sinn Fein puts the gun to the DUP's head. The DUP is on a conveyor belt of delivering whatever it takes to keep Sinn Fein happy.
And what did the DUP get in return? A review of a review of parading! But, meantime, before a possible name change, the Parades Commission stays while the processes are altered to impose mandatory dialogue between the Loyal Orders and recalcitrant objectors and possible adjudicators appointed by the joint First Ministers.
How empowering McGuinness to appoint his own placemen as adjudicators is likely to resolve parading beats me, remembering the Sinn Fein boast that for three years they had carefully orchestrated and crafted the whole syndrome of residents' objections. But in DUP terms this, nonetheless, is a great unionist victory.
But then Peter Robinson thinks Stormont has been delivering. It shows how divorced from reality some have become.
This Stormont Executive is the most dysfunctional failed government anywhere in Western Europe. Its inability to even sort out how children transfer from primary to secondary school, and the turmoil and anxiety that has brought to families of all faiths, typifies its abject failure.
Yet some foolishly think it should now be gifted more powers, and those the most seminal powers of all - policing and justice.
Certainly, rationality and commonsense don't drive such an agenda, rather it is Sinn Fein's price for the DUP clinging to office, which sadly is the defining issue for their MLAs, including the 14 risible strongmen who melted like snowmen.
Considering their recently abandoned pre-conditions on retention of the full-time Reserve, the requirement for the removal of the IRA army council and the shedding of tough talk about 'political lifetimes', the DUP leader should be the last man to press the rewind button. Nonetheless, he seeks to tarnish me by association with the DUP manifesto.
Interesting how even he sees association with a DUP manifesto as a matter for ridicule. There is no more startling somersault than his own transition from solemnly pledging that mandatory coalition with Sinn Fein was "out of the question" to jointly presiding over such a government: and that with a man he once identified as IRA chief of staff.
The DUP 2007 manifesto boasted of "the triple lock" and pledged no policing and justice without necessary support within the community.
For me, then and now, such confidence could never exist if, as now proposed, policing and justice was being devolved to a terrorist-inclusive Executive. As for a triple lock, it's not much use if, as at Hillsborough, you hand the keys to the marauders.
The deceptive suggestion that devolution of policing and justice to the Executive is attainment of a traditional unionist goal is absurd.
The work and legacy of the founding fathers of unionism was focused on keeping Ulster and its affairs out of republican control.
Sadly, Peter Robinson's legacy is of empowering republicanism, first as joint First Minister and now by transferring policing and justice to an Executive in which Sinn Fein holds a toxic veto.
It should also be remembered this is only an interim deal until May 2012. Then, Sinn Fein will be back for more. Old Bailey bomber Gerry Kelly's ambition to be your Justice Minister is merely delayed.
Meantime, Sinn Fein in fact gets some immediate justice powers, because at the moment of devolution, McGuinness, as joint First Minister, is eligible to jointly appoint the Attorney General and the Judicial Appointments Commission.
So, McGuinness, the personification of the wicked campaign which murdered judges - something he has never said was wrong - will get to handpick those who will appoint the judges. Well done Peter!
The TUV position is very clear: the apologists for those who murdered policemen and judges should not get within a devolutionary mile of policing and justice.