Wednesday, 14 February 2018

On the Collapse of the talks

I heard a bit of inside goss about the situation at Stormont. The source of which I'll not divulge but I will say comes from the inside and I personally trust the veracity of. Basically with the demand that Arlene step down pending investigation over RHI off the table from the Sinner's end the DUP negotiations team, i.e. most of the leadership, were happy to go back into government. This had been one of the key demands that Sinn Fein had been sticking to, but with the recent knock on Sinn Fein's public image over the whole Barry McElduff thing and Gerry Kelly's handywork with a set of bolt cutters, they've not been feeling as smug or confident in themselves.

What's fucked things up is that the first whiff the party organisation and wider membership had of a climb down over Acht Na Gaelige they were ready to throw the proverbial dummy out of the pram. Hence the DUP were hamstrung from doing what no doubt they've been itching to do since the collapse and get back to business (or at least the petty corruption that has become synonymous with the way the DUP actually do business).

Now if that's to be believed (doesn't seem unreasonable and fits with what's been made public as well as Michelle O'Neill's statement) then once again we find ourselves in a position where the possibilities of progressive change have been held back by the leadership of mainstream unionism's failure to sell their own electorate on very basic, timely and democratically mandated reforms, the sort of thing that wouldn't be remotely controversial in any right thinking part of the world. I suppose that when you make your career on being an intractable force of conservatism, having to make even an elementary compromise becomes impossible.

There's a section of the Unionist people, hard liners who had been convinced by Big Ian that they were in the right, god was on their side and eventually they would see justice done against the forces of Nationalism, the IRA would be smashed, its leaders dragged through the streets in sack cloth and ashes, those (hopefully few) taken alive jailed and order restored, and those brave men on their side whose only real crime was loyalty would be left to go about their business and everything would be fine. So it was written, so it would be and any conciliation was nothing less than a betrayal of Ulster. On such illusions did the DUP build the rack upon which they broke the mighty UUP party organisation and become the biggest of the four main political parties in Northern Ireland. However fostering such illusions in your voter base is great crack when you're the maverick outsider and its good for beating up the people who have to make the hard choices and show some conciliation every now and again by calling. Its less fun when you're in the driving seat and have to make the hard choices yourself.

Whether the bit of gossip I've tripped over this evening is true or not: here we are, the DUP fulfilling their promise at the beginning of this experiment to make the GFA unworkable. Hard to see where things go from here, short term back to direct rule but then considering the continuing crisis in British politics who knows how long the current situ over there is going to last, we've been waiting for the other shoe to drop on Theresa May's head since the last election, it may do so by the end of the year but whether it falls from the left or right remains to be seen (congratulations to anyone who followed that last sentence through at least three tortuously mixed metaphors btw). Personally I'd love it if the whole shebang came down over brexit or the NHS crisis or something, like the government is at its most precarious any UK government has been since Ted Heath in the early 1970s, which could potentially lead to an election and a Labour administration under Corbyn, possibly in coalition with the SNP with enough of a majority to be able to force through a progressive mandate. Its not out of the question as things stand. Just as easily we could see a Palace coup from the right and Gove, Rees-Mogg or even BoJo replacing May, though how long that would last would be another question.

As ever the people of Northern Ireland will just have to shoulder the burden of our dysfunctional little shithole of a political system and get on without a functioning government or the long overdue equality legislation and live with the various petty annoyances and inconveniences as well as the major ongoing injustices that it is continues to inflict on us.

 Happy Valentines Day

Update 15/02/18:

This article by Eammon Mallie corroborates what I've alluded to and goes a lot deeper, specifically to say that the deal was agreed to on Friday, that Theresa May and Leo Varadkar were in town to announce that Stormont was back on the understanding that it was settled. It also outlines the proposal, a stand alone Irish Language Act, a seperate one for Ulster Scots and some sort of "Britishness" cultural act which sounds like a bile of boak but reflects a sop to petty bourgeois Unionism. It doesn't mention marraige equality so presumably the Sinners have fudged that for the time being. So basically the DUP negotiating team had one, they'd got Gay Marriage off the table as a key demand and retained and Arlene's head, the Sinners would get the Acht but they could have two Achts of their own to sell to their side. They couldn't even manage to deliver on that.

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