reason there's a deal on the cards is that Sinn Fein
has gone unionist. The other is that the DUP has conceded
the nationalist case. The Shinners will snort in anger
at the suggestion they have become reconciled to partition.
In dreams, perhaps they have not. But in practice,
by endorsing the Agreement they have accepted that
the north will stay within the United Kingdom until
such times as a majority of northern voters decides
otherwise. This is all that Craigavon insisted on.
Peter Robinson cannot make it to the end of an interview
without spelling it out that no system of government
will survive without the backing of both unionist
and nationalist communities. But acceptance of the
necessity of nationalist assent is all that Joe Devlin
demanded. It is still hard to see the exact mechanism
by which they will get over or around the "guns
before government" impediment.
they are at the mercy of events, dear boy, events.
But the foundation has been laid on which a deal can
be erected and the surveyors are prowling the site.
On Prime Time on Tuesday, Ian Paisley was clear that
the DUP will share office with Sinn Fein once Sinn
Fein has extricated itself from paramilitarism - a
giant leap by a party which once set its face against
power-sharing with the SDLP.
Agreement is Sunningdale for slow learners, right
enough. And the DUP has signalled its readiness to
sign up. Sinn Fein leaders want disentanglement from
"armed struggle", too. It's half a dozen
years since Martin McGuinness told Emily O'Reilly
in an Observer Magazine piece that he looked forward
to the day - and he wasn't talking of the far distant
future - when the IRA had dumped arms for good and
members met instead for social events, reminiscence
and commemorative functions.
fully meets the condition for power-sharing which
Paisley set out for Miriam O'Callaghan. There it is,
then. The Shinners and Paisleyites are inching towards
one another with draft proposals, not daggers, in
hand. So why isn't there a palpable sense of excitement?
Surely this is the curtain dropping on the final scene
in Act Five of what's hitherto been experienced as
a never-ending tragedy when it hasn't been a recurring
farce? Why no rising rumble of approval, or at least
of relief, from the punters in the stalls? Why, indeed,
the apparent lack even of interest?
Last week, when the delegations mustered at Stormont
for the formal opening of the review (or re-negotiation,
if you like), radio journalists seeking vox pop reaction
had difficulty finding passers-by who knew what was
going on, and greater difficulty coaxing a comment.
A majority on all sides seems to want devolution.
The line-up of Blairite third-raters at the NIO must
be a factor. And, as one NIPSA striker put it at a
rally in Guildhall Square last Friday: "When
it's the local lot, you feel you can maybe get your
hands around their throats."
it is a preference, not a desperate urgent desire,
for devolution. The NIPSA dispute is a case in point.
Viewed in the perspective of defence of the public
service against free-market wreckers and vindicating
the interests of the low-paid, the strike is the most
important development in these parts in recent years.
This is the only region of the UK where wages in the
public sector are (marginally) higher than in private
employment. A defeat for NIPSA will be a blow to every
worker living on the margins. Here, indeed, is a matter
of desperate urgency - about which the goings-on at
Stormont have marginal relevance at most. The main
reason there isn't wild excitement at the looming
likelihood of a
DUP-Sinn Fein administration is that for precisely
those people with real reason urgently to want change,
Paisley and Adams clasping hands will make no difference
or no, for those at the bottom the struggle goes on.
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