Blair will adopt a policy in the coming weeks
of 'sucking up to the Shinners' rather than 'pandering
to the Paisleyites', well-placed sources in the
Ulster Unionist executive were claiming last night.
senior UUP executive source said: The British
Government has clearly recognised Paisley has
sacrificed progress on devolution for a radical
Right-wing stance on so-called decontamination
for the Shinners simply to off set a grassroots
rebellion by Unionist dissidents in the DUP.
Paisley has bought himself time until the New
Year to paper over the cracks within his ranks
on the St Andrews Agreement. But Blair himself
wants a solution to the Northern Ireland Assembly
before he leave Downing Street in mid 2007.
will be equally clear in the coming weeks, because
the DUP has gone more hardline to please their
dissidents, that Blair will switch his emphasis
to persuading the Shinners to sign up to policing.
new dissident-leaning platform of the DUP was
also stressed in the delegation to meet Blair
two people from the pro-deal wing, and
two from the anti-deal wing.
yet another Stormont sub-committee was established
to try and resolve the impasse between the DUP
and SF over the transfer of policing and justice
powers from Westminster to a future power-sharing
specific sub-committee has reportedly been given
a cut-off date of 3 January to devise tactics
for the main Programme for Government Committee
in the Northern Assembly.
will be just less than a month before Northern
Secretary Peter Hain formally dissolves his so-called
'transitional' Assembly on 30 January to pave
the way for fresh Stormont elections on 7 March.
sources at Parliament Buildings have already dubbed
the Programme for Government Committee as the
Embryo Executive. Said one source:
Hain is not going to announce all that extra
cash for advisers, new offices and computer technology
the DUP still has to face the hurdle of actually
going into a power-sharing Executive with the
Shinners. The Paisleyites could be in a real fix
if Sinn Fein decides to take its places on the
Policing Board without calling an ard fheis
to ratify support for policing.
taking its Policing Board seats, it could use
them as a platform to criticise the PSNI and MI5
without actually having told the movement its
policy on law and order had radically changed.
could mean trouble for Paisley again with his
dissidents what happens if the Assembly
is dissolved on 30 January and the Shinners still
haven't held their ard fheis? How does he sell
this on the doorsteps of his hardline stomping
turf of North Antrim?
other problem for the Shinners is clearly if they
move to support policing, even by tactically taking
their Policing Board seats, will this cause even
more rifts with their own dissidents.
they can't bring their Provie hardmen back onto
the streets to deal with dissidents in the same
way they cleaned up the IPLO in '92.
was a reference to a Night of the Long Knives-style
operation in late October 1992 when the Provos
were believed to have used some 100 members in
a bid to disperse the fringe Irish People's Liberation
Organisation on the grounds the latter was heavily
involved in drug-dealing.
IPLO member, Samuel Ward, was killed and several
others were wounded. Within a fortnight, the IPLO
announced its was disbanding.
Unionist Executive source added: If the
Provos can't deal openly with its dissidents,
then you might see a few boyos permanently disappear
from republican heartlands and never be seen again
no bodies, and no claim, no blame!
reality is the Shinners will be hurt internally
by any move on law and order, even to take their
Policing Board seats. And this will have a knock-on
effect on the pro-deal Paisleyites. If Blair can
get the Shinners to sign up to policing, it leaves
Paisley on a sticky wicket.
the aftermath of the November debacle at Stormont,
Paisley issued a statement supposedly clarifying
the circumstances under which he would allow himself
to be nominated as First Minister.
DUP dissidents like Jim Allister constantly refer
to the DUP executive decisions. Paisley may still
be the party leader, but it is clear the real
power base in the DUP rests with his party executive
where the dissidents seem to be gaining ground
we get to 30 January and both the Shinners and
the DUP are in difficulties with their respective
dissidents, then the Assembly elections could
be pushed back to the autumn of 2007 to save Gerry
Adams, but especially Paisley in much the
same way the 2003 elections scheduled for May
were postponed to November to save Davy Trimble's
real danger for the Unionist family as a whole
is if Blair is now committed to sucking up to
the Shinners and stopping pandering to Paisley
as much, what more concessions will the British
Government offer the republican movement?
could be in the form of an even more green Assembly
through the cross-border bodies, or even a dark
green form of joint authority should the whole
Stormont process collapse.
is a real sense of apathy in the Unionist electorate
at the moment, and if the elections go ahead on
7 March, the outcome for Unionism may not necessarily
be decided on policy, but on who can overcome
the apathy factor and get their supporters out
on the day, said the UUP executive source.