Friday became Farce Friday as yet another final
deadline loomed - and passed - in the Northern
snail's pace peace process.
weeks of warning the parties 24 November was D-Day
for devolution or dissolution of the Assembly,
the issue has once again been politically smothered
by the British Government.
108 Assembly members had been warned their salaries
and expenses would be chopped and Stormont axed
if they failed to nominate a First and Deputy
expected, through a process of statements, nods
and winks, the DUP allowed boss Rev Ian Paisley
to quietly indicate if certain terms and conditions
were met, he would in turn allow himself to be
nominated as First Minister. Sinn Fein, meanwhile,
took the plunge at Stormont and allowed its chief
negotiator Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness to
be nominated as Deputy - without having first
given a commitment to support the police.
DUP wants SF to jump first by supporting the PSNI
and join the Policing Board. SF, meanwhile, has
still to hold its ard fheis to ratify the republican
movement's backing for the police.
Fudge Friday, the Northern Secretary Peter Hain
also formally launched his so-called 'transitional
Assembly' which - surprise, surprise - came with
yet another final deadline 26 March, 2007,
when MLAs will once again be threatened with closure
unless they agree to establish a power-sharing
Friday also fired the starting gun for another
Assembly election on Wednesday 7 March when Northern
voters supposedly give their verdict on the St
the DUP and SF are expected to make further gains
at the expense of the Ulster Unionists, SDLP and
Unionist sources were last night claiming the
British Government's decision to call a fresh
Assembly election rather than a referendum was
a move entirely to please Paisley Senior.
the pro-deal faction of the DUP appears to be
the only section of Northern political opinion
in favour of the March poll.
is understood to have preferred a referendum as
the republican movement also faces a tough and
costly Dail General Election anticipated in May
or June 2007, in which it is hoping to at least
double its present number of TD's to 10.
Southern political opinion has estimated support
for the Scottish deal in the DUP is running at
90 per cent, Unionist sources based on
the outcomes of recent grassroots consultation
meetings claim support is actually around
60 per cent.
Senior is also thought to favour a March 2007
poll for two key reasons giving the rival
UUP another election battering while preventing
anti-deal dissident Unionism from organising effectively.
and file Unionists opposed to the St Andrews Agreement
are looking to DUP MEP Jim Allister and UKUP boss
Robert McCartney of North Down to join forces
and form an anti-deal electoral coalition.
Assembly elections to May 2008 to allow any fledgling
DUP/SF Executive to 'bed in' would also provide
valuable political breathing space for dissident
Unionists to marshal their troops.
the anti-deal camp was to seriously damage the
DUP, it would need to take seats in cockpit constituencies,
such as Paisley Senior's North Antrim, former
UUP boss David Trimble's Upper Bann, and the key
border region of Fermanagh/South Tyrone.
DUP has 32 MLAs compared to the UUP's 24. The
Paisley camp believes it can go for a quick electoral
kill and capture around a dozen UUP seats.
pro-deal DUP faction will sell the election to
its religious anti-deal bogmen and Rednecks as
an opportunity to eliminate both the Reg Empey-led
UUP and the original 1998 Good Friday Agreement
once and for all.
also with 24 seats, will want to eat heavily into
the SDLP's tally of 18 MLAs, bringing the republican
camp nearer the target of 30.
a number of its veteran MLAs retiring, the centre
ground Alliance with six seats, could find itself
dumped in the electoral dustbin and virtually
wiped off the Northern political landscape.
would see Alliance suffer the same fate as the
Women's Coalition, Northern Ireland Unionist Party,
and the United Unionist Assembly Party.
if anti-deal Unionism could shift its campaign
into top gear within the next three months, it
could win up to 10 seats.
would force the pro-deal DUP to register a formal
Unionist Coalition Party with pro-deal Ulster
Unionists to run agreed candidates.
is the added danger dissident Unionists could
split the pro-Union electorate to such a degree
nationalist candidates begin winning further seats
in traditionally Unionist constituencies.