DUP and Sinn Féin will not agree to form
an Executive by the November 24th deadline. Consequently,
the British and Irish governments will then have
to decide whether to go ahead with a threat to close
the Assembly and stop all salaries and party allowances
or allow time for further negotiation.
governments must stick with the original plan.
matter how much extra time Sinn Féin and
the DUP have, they will still fail to reach agreement.
very different reasons, neither party wants to share
power with the other.
to deliver political stability to Northern Ireland
cannot be made to fit with the longer-term, all-Ireland
ambitions of Sinn Féin.
its part, the DUP will only take places in an Executive
which does not include republican representatives.
the rhetoric and posturing, the sole concern of
each party is that the other takes most of the blame
for the inevitable failure in November.
must be said as well that the two governments have
a fixation with restoring the Assembly and Executive
that is not shared by a majority of the people in
Northern Ireland. They lost interest in the whole
affair long ago.
endless haranguing and arguing of politicians who
cannot agree on anything of substance has taken
its toll on many.
yet others there is a distinct lack of confidence
that their politicians would be capable of properly
managing local affairs even if an Executive was
to be formed.
disastrous state of the Northern Ireland economy
plays no part, as yet, in people's calculations.
now, it is merely an abstraction which will only
become apparent when, as is inevitable, the massive
injections of peace money and extra government subventions
begin to dry up.
even when that reality dawns, there is still no
guarantee that the electorate will put pressure
on their politicians to reach a deal.
hard truth is that an election - whether tomorrow
or after failure on November 24th - would again
deliver the DUP and Sinn Féin as the predominant
parties within their respective communities.
can only be assumed, then, that at heart a majority
of the Northern Ireland electorate agrees with the
positions adopted by its representatives and is
more comfortable with political deadlock than with
the reasons, the upshot is that people are quite
happy to settle for a continuation of direct rule
then, does all this leave the peace process? Well,
in quite good fettle, actually.
violence, as we once knew it, is no longer a major
course, much residue of decades of sustained conflict
remains, with very high levels of organised crime
and many communities still struggling under the
yoke of paramilitary control.
the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee pointed out
the other day, there is still paramilitary involvement
in the illegal smuggling of fuel and cigarettes,
in the manufacture and sale of counterfeit goods,
in people-trafficking and prostitution, illegal
dumping, armed robbery and a host of other criminal
but surely, though, this is being tackled, as support
for the PSNI grows in nationalist areas and as more
people on both sides seem willing to report incidents
of violence, intimidation and extortion to the police.
help accelerate this process of positive change,
the operating guidelines of the Assets Recovery
Agency (ARA) should be changed to allow it to initiate
its own investigations and take complaints directly
from the public.
present, the ARA can only investigate cases referred
to it by the PSNI. Aside from anything else, this
has created a level of public suspicion that the
PSNI filter is sometimes used to protect police
agents from having their financial affairs thoroughly
sectarianism itself has not decreased in Northern
Ireland, its overt manifestation in incidents of
inter-community strife undoubtedly has.
social and criminal problems which require urgent
attention undoubtedly remain, but at least they
are now top of the policing and political agenda
and not, as in the past, buried beneath a blanket
of sustained terrorist activity.
from the marked reduction in political violence
and the gradual but undeniable loosening of the
paramilitary grip, the single most important thing
to emerge from the peace process so far has been
the vastly improved, and ever-improving, relationship
between the British and Irish governments. Never
again should the extremes on both sides in Northern
Ireland dictate how the two sovereign governments
interact with one another.
last Saturday's Somme commemoration in Dublin was
the latest overt display of how the relationship
has matured, less obvious is the large-scale co-operation
which takes place constantly on security, policing
and economic matters.
collaboration by the forces of law and order is
vital in the battle against, in particular, organised
would be preferable if the Assembly was resurrected,
but it is by no means essential. It forms only one
part of the Belfast Agreement, and the agreement
itself is but one element in the overall peace process.
we trundle slowly but inexorably towards failure
on November 24th, we should remain conscious of
the many reasons we have to feel optimistic.