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The Fleece Process


Anthony McIntyre • 6 December 2004

As more deadlines in the land of final deadlines pass and any remaining public interest is slowly strangled by the 'give us your votes men', the DUP and Sinn Fein continue to perform a little pirouette of procrastination in their search for a mutual understanding not to reach any agreement in the near future. Once that is secured, then between them, they can continue as before squeezing London and Dublin for even more goodies. Each refusal will meet with a howl that the ‘fleece process’ faces the greatest crisis ever. If the next greatest summit ever or the following most crucial election ever is to move the process forward, then London and Dublin must heed the siren calls of our oleaginous political class.

Will there be a deal? Of course. But probably not this year; and possibly not next year either. While the Anglo-Irish one armed bandit continues to be robbed blind, paying out far more than is ever put into it, only a fool would point out to the owner, while filling his pockets, that the machine is faulty. Even children will stand in front of a slot machine that pays out on demand for as long as they can and answer 'I'm coming now' every time the management shouts, 'hurry up'.

Our two main gangs of Northern politicians strive to outdo each other in claiming that they both want a deal. But as Idi Amin once said people often mistook what he was saying for what he was thinking. Does either the DUP or Sinn Fein need a deal any time this side of 2006? Each party will only embrace a deal sooner rather than later if it facilitates its own particular grander ambitions. For the DUP this is to comprehensively consolidate its position as the dominant force within unionism while at the same time seeing off the IRA. An agreement with Sinn Fein that does not deliver these objectives can have little appeal for the DUP. Why go to an electorate with Trimble terms for which the unionist electorate savaged the UUP leader? As one DUP source put it, ‘we have no intention of being “Trimbled” and tricked into signing up to something that will not be delivered by the Provisional IRA.’ Better from the DUP point of view to go with no deal than a flawed one. That way one objective at least is assured.

The wider ambition of Sinn Fein is to expand throughout the island as a whole. The peace process is crucial to this and cannot be prematurely ended by reaching deals on terms set by the DUP, which would see the process morph into a solution. When Sinn Fein looks at its prospects for continued expansion in the Republic it must be struck immediately by two things. Firstly, the performance of the party's five TDs in the Dail is lacklustre. Entering Leinster House was no march on Batista’s Havana. Secondly, policy differences between the party and Fianna Fail are of such a nature that Gerry Adams and Bertie Ahern can both proclaim themselves socialists. It is a dual combination that is unlikely to energise a sustained growth spurt.

What then does Sinn Fein have? The most potent wind in the sails of the Provisional party in the Republic is the profile of its leader. The statesman-like character that Gerry Adams has constructed for himself is Sinn Fein's biggest asset there. The raw materials that made that construction possible were mined from the peace process. While he continues to ride his biggest wave, the same process, there is no reason for Adams to beach it in Northern political institutions. If the DUP sticks to its terms and Sinn Fein acquiesce then the peace ‘process’ becomes a solution. The IRA is off the public radar screen and Adams becomes just another political leader up to his elbows with the rest of them in the normal political sleaze.

What serves to fuel the peace process, and the resulting positive public exposure for Sinn Fein in the Republic, is the permanent Northern institutional instability caused by the continued existence of the IRA which invariably unsettles unionism. If the IRA goes out to graze the DUP has what it wants but Adams has no peace process and is thus deprived of his ace card at the poker table of Southern politics.

Therein lies the rub for those, who with Pollyanna zeal inform us with emboldened banner headlines that ‘The Great Deal Cometh.’ Whereas Adams can deliver what the DUP wants, Paisley’s party cannot satisfy Sinn Fein. On the contrary it can truncate the Sinn Fein project by striking a deal that deprives the party of the peace process. It makes no strategic sense for Sinn Fein to deal now unless it can do so on the terms it offered Trimble - whereby it can hold onto the IRA and the peace process - albeit disguised by better word craft. Why sell the IRA shop to Paisley today when a better price can be obtained by selling it later on to a Southern electorate?

The DUP is no doubt aware that it is better to conclude the peace process rather than let it continue fanning the fires of Sinn Fein’s island wide expansionism. The difference between the two perspectives is that the DUP wants the peace process concluded much quicker than Sinn Fein. There are gains for the DUP by concluding it. There are gains for Sinn Fein in prolonging it. When these permutations settle sufficiently to permit some calculations the arithmetic suggests that the DUP, while not absolutely ready, is confronted with propitious circumstances that would nudge it toward clinching a deal quicker than Sinn Fein.

For now the objective of Adams is to disguise his unwillingness to deal by portraying the DUP leader as a sectarian ogre - not too difficult a task - impervious to all reason, who uses ‘language that led to pogroms in the late 1960s.’ Adams can wax plaintively, depicting himself as the man who wanted to put the IRA to bed and who could have done so were it not for Paisley preventing him. His decision to meet PSNI boss Hugh Orde, ostensibly to make demands which Orde had previously told the SDLP were coming anyway, was to create the impression of Sinn Fein going that extra mile in its willingness to deal while at the same time showing the DUP as standing still or, worse, lurching off in the opposite direction. Paisley has added ballast to the Adams line by saying he wants to publicly humiliate the IRA, allowing the Sinn Fein leader to argue ‘is it going to be thrown away because Ian Paisley does not get the process of humiliation that he wants?’

Ultimately, blame-gaming rather than deal-making is the hinge on which the present negotiations swivel. The Guardian has observed that ‘neither Adams nor Paisley want to look like the obstructive element.’ This is echoed in the Irish Times by Gerry Moriarty who claims the two governments will invite the public to judge who is ‘chiefly responsible for the collapse of the deal’ The only way Sinn Fein will deal any time soon is if it finds it has went so far down the road of the mutual blame game, that to avoid being left in sole possession of the blame boomerang it feels compelled to sign on the dotted line. Pundits have no way of deducing the configurations involved. Like all brinkmanship battles the winner makes the second last mistake. Judgment on the day can lead to unforeseen consequences. Like two men walking across a high wire to embrace each other in the middle - not of their own volition, but to keep the audience clapping - all the time furtively trying to unbalance one another, the trick is to force your opposite number to loose footing and plunge to the moral low ground where you can shout at him ‘you jumped.’ In the bid to maintain audience approval, there is always the chance that each tight rope artist will bump into one another in spite of themselves; unsavoury but together nonetheless. They may hold each other by the throat but enough Journalists for the Peace Process will term it an embrace all the same and lambaste those who ask ‘for how long?’




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

6 December 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Fleece Process
Anthony McIntyre

Padraic Paisley
Anthony McIntyre

Revolutionary Unionism
Dr John Coulter

Official Secrets
Mick Hall

Kilmichael Controversay Continues
Liam O Ruairc

Turkish Man Beaten and Racially Abused by PSNI in front of Witnesses

Iraq is Not the Second World War
Fred A Wilcox

Dancing at the Edge of the Abyss
Karen Lyden Cox

2 December 2004

Questions - and Doubts - Remain
Tommy Gorman

Another Crisis for Trimble?
Dr John Coulter

No Gangster More Cruel
Anthony McIntyre

Love Your Enemy More Than Your Friend
Elana Golden

Mick Hall

The Biggest Mistake They Could Have Made
Áine Fox

Danilo Anderson and Condoleeza Rice
Toni Solo



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