clouds of doom and gloom have descended over Stormont
Hill with the news MLAs have reportedly been told
by the Government to prepare to lay off their staff
from 24 November a sure sign any hope of
a deal is a dead duck.
A major problem is that both the Paisleyites and
Shinners' alternatives to the Assembly as we sit
in the middle of the summer recess appear very workable
and politically lucrative.
Sinn Fein is already talking about pulling out of
the Assembly. This is an abstentionist tactic it
has used in the past with the '82-'86 Assembly and
the '96-'98 Northern Forum.
There's no way Blair will return to Direct Rule
if Stormont collapses. Forget the daft notion coming
from Paisleyite ranks that even if the Assembly
is axed in November, negotiations will continue
and it will return in a revamped format with fresh
elections in May 2007.
The North will be governed by joint authority between
Dublin and London with the British Irish Inter-Parliamentary
Body (BIIB) and the cross-border bodies the real
Since 1994 and the first Provo ceasefire, Sinn Fein
has always had to contend with the oozing boil of
dissident republicanism. The Adams/McGuinness peace
strategy has endured a barrage of verbal criticism
over Sinn Fein's decision to participate in a partitionist
Pulling out of Stormont would allow Sinn Fein to
swing a new, double-edged sword. Firstly, it will
keep the dissidents and hardliners within the republican
movement happy especially in south Armagh,
south Derry, and east Tyrone that the party
has finaly abandoned its long-term Stormont agenda.
Secondly, with major Sinn Fein gains expected in
the 2007 Dail elections, it could place the republican
movement not just in a prime spot to form a coalition
government with Bert Ahern, but also to have key
seats in BIIB.
Gossip is also increasing a group of grassroots
UUP activists will push for Unionists having a say
in the running of the South should joint authority
become a political reality.
With five Westminster MPs, and Dail seats on the
BIIB, SF could move more rapidly towards a British
withdrawal from the North than farting about inside
Stormont. With its two MEPs, Sinn Fein can also
use the European Union to bring added clout to its
campaign to rub out the Northern border.
As for the DUP, Northern Secretary Peter Hain made
a serious tactical blunder with the leaking of the
NIO document about cutting £1.5 million from
the Paisley camp if Stormont shuts.
But the DUP still has a massive income from its
nine MPs and one MEP. The gossip on the Hill is
it has found jobs for all but eight of its MLA team.
Paisley personally fears a rebellion from his hot-headed
religious hill-billy Rednecks. They must be fully
on board before a deal is sealed otherwise the DUP
will descend into Davy Trimble-style UUP civil war.
But rumour also has it while there may be little
apparent movement at Stormont, DUP negotiators have
been heavily involved in so-called tripartite talks
in London using the British Government as the go-between.
The key issue, according to well-placed moles, is
policing. Present DUP policy is 'no deal', but if
Sinn Fein joins the Policing Board, Paisley may
well agree to an Executive at five to midnight on
The statements of four key fundamentalist DUP politicians
must be carefully pawed over after the summer recess
Big Ian himself; his son Ian Junior; new
peer Maurice Morrow, and Free Presbyterian cleric
The worry is these influential fundamentalists will
persuade the DUP modernisers around Peter Robinson
to hold fire on any deal, believing the loss of
Stormont will finish off the UUP, forcing the Reg
Empey-led party to sell its prestigious Cunningham
House HQ in Belfast to pay off party debts.
This hill-billy Redneck plan is simple kill
off the UUP and unionist voters will have no alternatives
at the ballot box; its the DUP or nothing.
Senior Stormont sources have indicated to The
Blanket if the Assembly flops, it could be a
decade before there is another election for some
kind of regional parliament in the North.
Other major ideas have been thrown into the melting
pot for the parties to ponder during their summer
recess, including: an announcement in September
that London and Dublin would prop up a power-sharing
Executive without the DUP.
There is talk the governments could spring a snap
referendum on the Northern electorate as to whether
people wanted a legislative devolved administration
a move which could seriously isolate the
foot-dragging Paisley camp.
This isolation would be further compounded if Sinn
Fein joined the Policing Board a decisive
move which could give the Robinson faction the courage
it needs to defy Big Paisley.
Looks like the ghost of the arch plotter himself,
Guy Fawkes, has decided to cross the Irish Sea and
haunt the Stormont corridors; let the talk of treason
and plot begin.