>> 27 Jun 2004



Let's do a reality check on the essence of why one holds a political position opposed to the provisions of the Belfast Agreement. The primary objection to this corrupt political arrangement has always been that it provides terrorist's proxies with the tangible reward of EXECUTIVE POWER in exchange for them graciously agreeing not to slaugher members of HM security forces or blowing up commercial town centre's. They can, of course, (wink wink, nudge nudge) torture and kill members of the communities that they infest without fear of censure ("internal housekeeping" as the NIO puts it), they can naturally remain fully armed and ever active, they can even recruit new members and seek new weapons. To any genuine democrat this is morally repulsive and thus cannot be tolerated.

However, we all know that the political establishment in the UK and Ireland, backed up by the UN, EU and, most disgracefully from those who should know better, the US, favours this pretence of peace at any price. And so those of us who have publicly taken a stance against the Belfast Agreement have been labelled by the liberal lickspittle media as "the enemies of peace" and "wreckers" because we believe that democratic Government cannot contain in any form those who choose to retain a private army. Surreal.

Now comes the bad news. If the Sunday Times is to be believed today (and that's a BIG if..!) then the DUP, driven by Peter Robinson, is preparing to move away from it's alleged anti-Agreement position and accept in principle that the IRA's frontmen can be seated in a new revived Government. All that is sought is a face-saving six-month delay between concluding a deal with the IRA before the latter group proxies are seated in a "reformed" Assembly. In this six month period, the DUP will engage with Sinn Fein, shake hands with them and generally abandon the essence of Anti-Agreement Unionism in exchange for the tantalising return of their "oh-so-precious" devolved Assembly. The Stormont honeypot has always been the ace up Mr. Blair' sleeve. After all, the fine cuisine served up in the Members Dining Rooms is very agreeable, and the salaries aren't half bad.

As always, there is a certain public and private choreography going on. Remember the DUP's much vaunted "Corporate Assembly" model of devolved Government outlined in the "Devolution Now" (or, more honestly "Devolution at any price" document? Well, again if the ST is to be believed,"A leaked document, classified confidential, was circulated last week to party negotiators by the British government outlining possible changes to the Good Friday agreement. It includes making ministers directly answerable to the assembly and responsible to the executive as a whole." Ring any bells? Ker-ching!

Furthermore, consider this. The illustrious Mr. Robinson was working hard for a better Northern Ireland...at Harvard Univeresity this past week - attending a "Leaders of Tomorrow" seminar at the John F Kennedy School of Government. The seminars are held annually for Northern Ireland’s political leaders but this year’s has been devoted entirely to the DUP. Noses stuck in the trough once again!

It seems to me that Unionism is in a bind. The DUP seems destined to follow it's fatal desire to get back into a devolved Government. It lusts to exercise executive power and all local political commentators seem to agree on this central point. Achieving this political goal requires doing SOME sort of deal with the IRA's frontmen. It is merely the choreography of this Faustian pact that so occupies the UK/Irish Governments and the DUP leadership. Naturally, what somes out in the Autumn must be seen as a percieved triumph for the DUP as it cannot risk a reversal of electoral fortunes at the Westminster poll in 2005. Yet the only way the DUP can have it's cake and eat it is if it ameliorates, contorts or otherwise camoflages a clear intent to share power with the IRA. Using a mandate falsely obtained at the polls last November and again last month will be the bizarre justification for this planned departure from principles.

Of course the Ulster Unionist Party is in no better a position to help Unionism. Remember it was Mr. Trimble who sat in a working Executive with a self-confessed IRA commander! If anything, the UUP are an even more craven version of the DUP - at least under it's current leadership. It seems unlikely that the UUP can change unless it engages in a major overhaul and a new younger dynamic leadership emerges (Younger, in UUP circles suggests someone under about 70, it needs to be someone under 50!)

So in the short term, Unionism is faced with the brutal truth that it's political leaders are united in preferrng devolution to democracy. The more things change in Unionism, the more they will stay the same. For years, many politicians in the DUP known to me have decried David Trimble as the greatest possible threat to the Union. I wonder can they now see that he has been replaced by their own "Leader of tomorrow" Peter Robinson?


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