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F's All Around

The Northern peace process's Fudge Friday signalled the start of a fresh election campaign with expected gains for the DUP and Sinn Fein. Political commentator Dr John Coulter analyses how the latest steps are a Paisley plan to outgun Unionist dissidents


Dr John Coulter • 25 November 2006

Fudge Friday became Farce Friday as yet another final deadline loomed - and passed - in the Northern snail's pace peace process.

After 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.

The 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 First Minister.

As 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.

The 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.

On 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 Executive.

Fudge Friday also fired the starting gun for another Assembly election on Wednesday 7 March when Northern voters supposedly give their verdict on the St Andrews Agreement.

Both the DUP and SF are expected to make further gains at the expense of the Ulster Unionists, SDLP and Alliance.

However, 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.

Indeed, the pro-deal faction of the DUP appears to be the only section of Northern political opinion in favour of the March poll.

SF 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.

Although 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.

Paisley 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.

Rank 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.

Postponing 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.

If 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.

The 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.

The 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.

SF, 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.

With 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.

This would see Alliance suffer the same fate as the Women's Coalition, Northern Ireland Unionist Party, and the United Unionist Assembly Party.

However, if anti-deal Unionism could shift its campaign into top gear within the next three months, it could win up to 10 seats.

This would force the pro-deal DUP to register a formal Unionist Coalition Party with pro-deal Ulster Unionists to run agreed candidates.

There 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.















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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

3 December 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Forensic Framework Unravels
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RUC Killing of Irish-American To Become Issue in New Congress
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

F's All Around
Dr John Coulter

Loose Ends
John Kennedy

The People of No Principle
Geraldine Adams

Policing, a Bridge Too Far for Republicans?
Willie Gallagher

Conway Mill Debate
Anthony McIntyre

Not Too Late for a United Front
Mick Hall

Afraid of the Voice of the People
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Ideals Live On
Dolours Price

Ray McAreavey

Poetry in Motion
Lord Falls

Michael Pebble
Anthony McIntyre

Action Required to Stop Bullies
Dr John Coulter

O'Shea is Right on Aid Policy
David Adams

Ministerial Own Goal
Anthony McIntyre

‘Beyond the Veil: Perspectives on Muslim Women in a Western Secular Context’
Maryam Namazie

19 November 2006

The Bogeyman
Anthony McIntyre

Believe It Or Not
John Kennedy

Contra Con Artists
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The Wrong Kind of Republican?
Ivan Morley

Equality Agenda: British Rhetoric and Reality
Martin Galvin

A Deal Done By Quislings
Mick Hall

Dr John Coulter

Deadline? Pull the other one!
David Adams

Political Policing
Martin Ingram

It's Not The Taking Part
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Who Can Get Dr No to Say Yes?
Dr John Coulter

Equality or Equity
Michéal MháDonnáin

Michael Gillespie

Revolutionary Unionism
Dr John Coulter

Who Needs Enemies
John Kennedy

The King's Threshold
Robin Kirk



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