Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ireland needs visionaries, and fast

Ireland needs visionaries, and fast

Radical solutions won't come from a political system wedded to the status quo, writes Brendan O'Connor

The most startling aspect of the putative Cabinet shuffle is that no one -- including, you suspect, the people directly involved -- believes in any way, shape or form that it will help solve this country's problems. But God bless them, it is the only way they know how to respond to anything. To do something within their narrow little range of political manoeuvres, and to do it three years too late

There's an old management maxim that says, "To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail." In other words, when we solve problems we often don't look at the problem and try and come up with an apt solution. Instead, we look at the tools we have at our disposal and define the problem in such a way that our tools fit. So even if the problem we have right now in Ireland is with a screw, the Government, because it doesn't have a screwdriver, is just going to take its hammer and bang away. And then we will all wonder why the wall falls down.

It was all exemplified in Mary Coughlan's performance on Prime Time the other night. When confronted with the issue of unemployment, she waffled on about the money spent on training and other nonsense. Her basic mission was not to say something inspiring or to reveal any creativity or imagination or grand plan; it was to maintain that she and her colleagues were not doing a bad job. At most, she seemed willing to consider how the existing civil service institutions that have been there for decades could possibly be looked at to deal with the scourge of unemployment.

In other words, she stressed that there was nothing wrong with the hammer and that the Government was even considering putting a rubber handle on it. And who can blame her? Mary Coughlan lives in a world where a certain culture dominates, and she cannot see beyond this. How can we expect her to come up with inspiring answers to unemployment?

She needs to believe that politics, as we know it, and done the way we've always done it, is the answer. Just as Brian Cowen needs to believe that Fianna Fail, as we know it, doing things the way it has always done them, is the answer.

And, as far as Leinster House is concerned, if there is to be radical change to face radical situations, it must work within the parameters of politics as it exists.

So this from the Irish Times last week as speculation about a reshuffle started to gain traction: "Cabinet sources expect Mr Cowen will reorganise the economic departments as part of the reshuffle to provide a stronger focus on the major problems facing the country. Mr Cowen is said to be considering establishing a department of economic planning incorporating parts of the current Department of Enterprise and Employment."

The poor politicians, and many of the people who write about the political process, actually believe that this is action -- to reconfigure who is in charge of what and maybe, if they get really radical, to put some new people in to some areas. But these new people will still be politicians, just like the politicians they are replacing. A new hammer.

Any normal organisation, when faced with the catastrophic events of the last few years, would have put itself on a war footing, would have radically restructured its whole way of doing things, and would have done it within a week. Two-plus years into it, our crowd are slowly and reluctantly thinking that maybe they should shift around a few desks. It is kind of depressing.

And lest this be seen as Fianna Fail bashing, does anyone have any confidence that things would be any different if Enda Kenny was in charge of the country? We need to break the cycle. Politicians need to realise that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in their philosophy.

Fortunately for our politicians, there is a whole other culture in this country that operates very differently to politics and that is primed and geared to deal with the rapidly changing world we live in. It is a culture that moves fast, that thinks laterally, that takes risks, that has imagination and bravery and vision. It deals with catastrophe -- and the prospect of becoming obsolete -- all the time. In fact, in exactly the same way that the culture of politics seems specifically designed not to deal with the reality we face right now, the culture of enterprise in this country is designed to suit current reality to a tee.

"Business" has become a dirty word in this country. But business creates jobs. Business people create jobs. Sure, they make money and some of them are crooked. But, fundamentally, the biggest impact business people make on a society is that they create hundreds of thousands of jobs. They do this by thinking up new ideas, by attacking the old ways of doing things, by cannibalising the status quo to build the future.

They are the opposite of Mary Coughlan, or any other politician, sitting there with the primary mission of convincing people that the system works. Entrepreneurs are anti-establishment, anti the system. They believe they can do things better, do new things in a new way. They question everything. They ask, "Why not?" They are the kind of people you need around when the system isn't working.

This country is jam-packed with such people, people who embody everything that makes us proud to be Irish. Nowadays these people tend not to go into politics, and if they do the system knocks these rough edges off them fairly quickly.

Most of us cannot readily see the answer to the unemployment problem. It would be safe to say that most politicians can't either. So what have we got to lose by taking a punt on some people who specialise in thinking of bold, creative solutions?

You can take the mickey out of Bill Cullen, but Bill Cullen clawed his way up from nowhere to become one of the country's most successful businessmen. When he decided to write a book, he sat down and wrote a bestseller. When he decided to become a TV star, he fronted one of the most successful TV shows in the country. He is hugely committed to young people, hugely visionary, and Bill Cullen doesn't think about why things won't work, he thinks about why they will work.

Equally you might not like Michael O'Leary, or his airline. But Michael O'Leary rose from owning a corner shop to running the biggest airline in the world. He breaks all the rules and has no tolerance for things being the way they are just because they are. He thinks laterally. He is constantly tinkering with everything about the status quo. He questions the way we do everything. He questions everything about his own business and it could be said he invented the future of the airline industry. He is a visionary who gets things done, and fast.

So let's ask the two of them to take charge of a task force to create employment. Just ask them to create jobs, to reinvent the future. And in case you worry that these two hotheads would find it too difficult to work with the dusty old institutions of the State, let's put in a mediator. Let's ask Ray MacSharry, who brings to the table a unique understanding of our current problems, buckets of wisdom and experience, and an understanding of how the dusty old institutions of the State work.

You might think it's daft and it might not work. But have you heard a better idea recently? And let's face it. They can't be any worse at creating jobs than Mary Coughlan.


Politics seems to be the same the world over. Whether in Ireland or here in the U.S., there are bailouts for banks, insurance companies, and stock brokerages. They are rewarded for gross incompetence with money supplied by the long suffering taxpayer. Then they reorganize by putting other taxpayers, who happen to be their own employees, out in the street. When the reorganization is complete, they go back into business and have the audacity to reward their top executives with what can only be described as obscene bonuses. In the meantime, the employees who were made redundant, stand in the dole queue week after week. Will there ever be an end to this nonsense?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Immigration reform is dead

Immigration reform is dead

Niall O’Dowd – Irish Central – Feb. 22, 2010

Comprehensive immigration reform for 2010 and beyond is dead. There, I've said it. It is time to concentrate on alternative strategies.

As the founder of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, a movement that took thousands of Irish to Capitol Hill to lobby for reform, it gives me no pleasure whatsoever to say this.

I know first-hand of many Irish undocumented who live in fear that the knock on the door will come. They are very much in my thoughts as I write this.

But the math does not lie. There is no chance in hell that a filibuster-proof majority exists in the U.S. Senate for most anything right now, let alone immigration reform. The Senate is where American legislation goes to die.

It might be possible to squeak a bill by the House, but there are more than enough anti-reform votes in the Senate to block any hope of passage. That will not change.

For fifteen years or so, a great effort was undertaken to pass a comprehensive reform bill. It looked like the promised land when the Kennedy/McCain bill looked certain to gain passage in 2007, but a filibuster-proof majority never existed.

Now, there are even fewer votes despite a Democratic majority. It is time to ditch comprehensive reform and focus on parts of immigration reform that can pass.

The Dream Act is one, which would allow undocumented people who were brought here as children to become legal. It is cruel and unusual punishment to deport such people who, through no fault of their own, were brought here often as infants, and have known no other life.

Start by passing that, let's then look at what other areas we can address and adopt a piecemeal approach rather than a grand sweeping plan which has brought us nowhere.

The definition of madness is that we continue to do the same thing over and over hoping for a different result. It is time to stop the madness.

First, we must be honest and admit that there is no political future for comprehensive reform. Only then can we actually start to get legislation passed.


Over the years, I have had my share of differences of opinion with Niall O’Dowd but in this case I have to agree with him. Immigration Reform is Dead. We have both been very much involved in this issue for several years and it has always been an uphill battle. We have seen some successes most notably the Donnelly NP-5 and Morrison AA-1 Visa Programs, both of which were very advantageous for the Irish. But by and large there has always been strong opposition in Congress to a very necessary overhaul of our antiquated U.S. immigration system. The opposition has never been stronger than it is today with estimates of 12 –15 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. The Congress has been, for all intents and purposes, totally engrossed in the health care issue since President Obama was elected. At a Health Care Summit, just yesterday, he suggested that both Houses take another four to six weeks to try to work out a solution. That means that every other issue on their agenda will be relegated to the “back burner”. To complicate matters further, mid term elections will take place in a few short months and members of Congress will be focusing their attention on their re-election campaigns. That leaves little or no time, not to mention the political will in Congress, for the immigration issue.

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Anger over decision to keep silent on parades proposals

Anger over decision to keep silent on parades proposals

By Noel McAdam - Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Plans to keep new proposals for dealing with contentious parades under wraps — at least initially — have come under fire from both nationalists and unionists.

Residents groups in two former flashpoint areas in Belfast and Portadown voiced concerns the detail of the plans may not be made public.

And the hardline Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister demanded publication of the report, including minutes of all meetings and supporting documentation.

By the end of today a DUP/Sinn Fein working group set up under the Hillsborough Agreement had been expected to report to First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, but there were indications last night the deadline could slip.

Sources said any delay should only be “a couple of days” with the team forwarding its framework later in the week.

The First Ministers’ Office is then expected to examine their blueprint before endorsing the report as the basis for new legislation which could mean the present Parades Commission being given its marching orders.

The DUP has pledged a new system and a new structure which will mean the commission being gone by the end of this year — but Mr McGuinness insisted the days of triumphalist Orange marches going through areas they are not wanted had been “consigned to the history books”.

The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition in Portadown and the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community in Belfast have offered to meet the working group, which only began its deliberations a fortnight ago.

Spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith said signs that details might not be made public “would be counter to any sense of openness, transparency and fairness regarding this process”.

And Mr Allister said: “We have had enough secret and side deals, let the searchlight of truth shine into the dark corners of the Sinn Fein/DUP deal, including their joint thinking on parades.”

Meanwhile, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds rounded on Mr McGuinness’s remarks.

“That sort of republican propaganda might play well with his hardcore supporters, but it will not instill community confidence throughout Northern Ireland on other important matters,” the North Belfast MLA said.

“Mr McGuinness needs to show some leadership and stop looking over his shoulder at the dissidents and the SDLP. SF should focus their efforts on getting a new start to parading.”

But the Deputy First Minister hit back: “The Orange Order has to sit up and take notice that the world is changing all around them. They (must) recognise that the days of triumphalist Orange marches through areas where they are not wanted have to be consigned to the history books forever.”


Mr. McGuinness appears to have had a significant change of attitude with regard to the infamous anti-Catholic, anti Irish, Orange Order bigots since he stood on a platform with them on the National Mall in Washington, DC in July, 2007. At that time, he declared that he was representing all of the “citizens of Northern Ireland” and the Orange Order was part of their culture. It was then and it is now an abomination to use the word culture in the same sentence as Orange Order. His appearance at that time was nothing more than a feeble attempt to lend legitimacy to the presence of a vile and disruptive organization of bigots. The timing of that event, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute, was especially offensive to Americans of the Catholic faith as it took place on the week of the Fourth of July. On the Fourth, we Americans celebrate victory over the very same religious hatred and prejudice that the Orange Order practices against Catholics every day in their own country. Judging from his remarks in this article, Mr. McGuinness should have been very much aware that we did not want the Orange Order on our National Mall any more than the nationalist people in Ireland want them in their neighborhoods We should be forever grateful to a group from the Ancient Order of Hibernians and other Irish American activists who stood tall and conducted a vigorous and principled protest against the presence of the Orange Order on our National Mall. It was our sincere belief that their presence was an affront to the religious liberty and freedom that we cherish as Americans.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sinn Fein jumped through DUP’s hoops and fell short

Sinn Fein jumped through DUP’s hoops and fell short

The long-awaited Hillsborough Agreement is a sham with grave consequences for the
nationalist community, says Chris Donnelly, a former Sinn Fein council candidate.

Belfast Telegraph

Two weeks ago, the DUP stood isolated, cornered by circumstances and by the
party’s failure to abide by its obligations in the eyes of the governing consensus
throughout these islands and beyond.

The cracks in the one-time solid DUP edifice weren’t long in appearing as the
leadership stood poised to pay the price for its enduring failure to educate its
membership and community base about the pains of compromise at Stormont.

Alas, agreement was reached and the elbow-worn podiums wheeled out to prop up the
by now very weary prime ministers.

Amid the smiles and laughter, there was even the promise of a new beginning; a
hint that, this time, the deal would survive.

I’m afraid I don’t buy it. This deal’s a pup, a sham which would more

appropriately have been agreed at Scarva.

Within minutes of publicly endorsing the ‘deal’, DUP leader Peter Robinson was
boasting of his clever device to pull the shutters down if he didn’t get what he
wanted over parading. How’s that for a new commitment to partnership?

As each of the firmly-set deadlines approaches, we can expect sabre-rattling and
late night negotiation.

The Hillsborough deal has ensured that the DUP can effect the downfall of the
Stormont administration on more favorable terms if republicans do not concede
critical ground on the parading dispute.

The decision by Sinn Fein to agree to a rigid timeline over parading has elevated
the issue in a manner which has unnerved many within the nationalist community.

It is discussed in terms which ask plenty of nationalists, but nothing of
unionists regarding developing an equal society based on trust, tolerance and

Nationalist communities continue to suffer due to the inability of the leaders of
nationalism/republicanism to alter the parameters within which the parades issue
is discussed.

Those parameters decisively favor the Loyal Orders — and, by extension, the
unionist political leadership — as the ideal compromise becomes one in which the
unionist ‘quid’ of entering into negotiations with residents is deserving of a
reciprocal ‘quo’ in the form of an unhindered parade.

Sinn Fein repeatedly jumped through DUP hoops in the vain hope of obtaining the elusive prize of the devolved policing and justice ministry it failed to nail down at St Andrews — a shortcoming which itself illustrated that republicans need some fresh, legally literate pairs of eyes around the top table.

Imagine were republicans to insist that discussions on parading only take place in
the context of dealing with how either community embraces political and cultural
expressions of the ‘other’ side.

Think what republicans could bring to that table regarding the display of the
Irish tricolor — not to mention localized solutions involving reciprocal parading
through loyalist communities.

Once DUP representatives realized that the price for pursuing a parade through the
Crumlin Road interface would be having to sell a republican parade through
Ballysillan, the present ‘parades-or-bust’ strategy would be shelved.

The republican mantra of seeking dialogue as the panacea for all parading ills is
idealistic claptrap exposing a failure to adapt tactics which has seen nationalist
communities outmaneuvered in areas like Ardoyne, Rasharkin and Springfield,
provoking considerable local discontent, something which people living on the
Garvaghy and Ormeau Roads are acutely aware of.

For the sake of the entire community, republicans need to jettison the tired
rhetoric of talking and walking as it merely plays into the hands of the Loyal
Orders and a Parades Commission, which has shown itself to be sympathetic to the
walk for talk solution.

A resolution to parading is predicated on the acceptance that mutual respect
entails being prepared to do precisely what we ask of others. Posing that
challenge to the political leaders of unionism is the key to moving the discussion
out of unionism’s comfort zone.


The people in Nationalist areas such as Dunloy, Rasharkin, Lower Ormeau, Garvaghy
Road, Ardoyne and others where these contentious parades take place each year are
not in favor of the Hillsborough Agreement. The SDLP has denounced it as a sham as
has the UUP. It seems that the only ones in favor are the two parties in Stormont
who agreed to it, the British and Irish governments both of whom want to wash
their hands of it, and the usual cadre of American politicians who have an
insatiable need to be involved in Irish issues especially in the run-up to St.
Patrick’s Day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Talks take us no further down the road on parades

Talks take us no further down the road on parades

For all the talk of high politics at Hillsborough, the parades issue will be decided on the streets of Belfast and Portadown, says Brian Rowan

Friday, 12 February 2010 – Belfast Telegraph

Listening to the marching debate, I wonder if the politicians are walking and talking on the same page. That working group established at Stormont might well be able to design a new framework to talk about and consider and rule on parades. That is the easy bit.

You can change the title of the Parades Commission - call it something else.

You can do more on mediation and place a greater emphasis on local dialogue.

But the questions are still the same, and, after all the talking, answers and attitudes may well be the same.

Changing a process is easy - changing minds will prove much more difficult.

There are roads here that will not be shared. And there are places where Orange marches will not be welcome, no matter what process is used to rule on parades.

This is the reality that has to be part of this new discussion.

We have a high politics and a high peace.

An end to violence was achieved in the orders given by the IRA and loyalist leaderships.

Deal-making has been achieved at the highest political level. But there is a massive piece of work to be done on the ground - and that will not be achieved in two weeks, two months or two years.

Some in the DUP have talked about this new process having to deliver progress on the ground, and have talked about the 'symbolic importance' of Drumcree.

There has not been a march on the Garvaghy Road since 1997 - and there may never be a march there again.

Sinn Fein cannot deliver one, is not minded to deliver one, so it comes down to Orangemen persuading residents.

Thirteen years after the last parade, is it realistic to expect that they can do that?

The marching of 1996 and 1997 was delivered in massive security operations and at a huge cost - not just financial.

In the eyes of the nationalist and republican communities the RUC were on the side of the marching orders, doing their work, making their parades possible.

It would be madness to put the PSNI in that position. New policing would be destroyed.

The DUP is looking for something on parades to balance up the Hillsborough deal - the quid pro quo for the date for the devolution of policing and justice powers.

But they may well have chosen the wrong issue at the wrong time.

In the past some marches - particularly those in north and west Belfast - were made possible by the efforts of the IRA, the UDA and the UVF.

On one occasion, senior republicans put themselves in front of an angry crowd to save the lives of soldiers.

Over the years, the IRA and loyalists have been left to tidy up some of the mess around parades and, on other occasions, they have been part of the mess around parades.

Walking this issue into the heart of politics here has all the potential to open up old marching sores.

That walk past Ardoyne is never going to be easy - and nor is a march on the Garvaghy Road.

In the past, republicans asserted their authority in some places, not because they wanted to see a march pass, but because they wanted to protect a fragile peace.

And on different roads at different times, loyalists have had to try to control an angry crowd.

There are no easy answers when it comes to this issue, and there are no guarantees.

You can ask the different sides in this marching dispute to talk, but you can't make them talk and you cannot impose outcomes.

So, what does that mean? It means that at the end of all of this talking we may be no further down the road in trying to find an answer to contentious marches. And it may also mean that rather than walking through, in some places the Orange Order may have to walk away.

For all the day-to-day talking at Stormont, the questions and answers are on the ground, below that high peace and high politics.


It certainly was good news this past week when the political parties in the North were able to hammer out an “eleventh hour agreement” to prevent the collapse of the N.I. Assembly. Sometimes however, agreements made in theory prove very difficult to put into actual practice. Also, problems as deep rooted and convoluted as those associated with Orange Order parades are not easily solved in accordance with time limits imposed by politicians. In this case, the politicians themselves were under a great deal of pressure to come to agreement on the devolution of policing and justice powers from London to Stormont. Immediate reaction from Nationalist communities where these contentious Orange Order parades take place would suggest that the time limits imposed by the Hillsborough Agreement are simply not realistic. Hopefully, this agreement, if nothing else, will begin dialogue on reaching a resolution of the contentious parades issue. Only time will tell.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

'No deal in Dunloy for parades now or in the future'

'No deal in Dunloy for parades now or in the future'
Published Date: 10 February 2010 – Ballymoney Times

THE likelihood of a Loyal Order parade ever taking place in Dunloy in the future is virtually non-existent despite the Hillsborough Agreement implementing new structures aimed at resolving the long-standing issue, a well-placed nationalist source in the village told the Times this week.

Dunloy and Rasharkin are two of the most contentious parades in the province and the issue of parading figured prominently during the talks process involving Sinn Fein and the DUP before the Agreement was sanctioned last week.
A new and supposedly improved framework involving all stakeholders and maximising cross-community support has been agreed by the parties and a co-chaired working group, set up by the First and Deputy First Minister, comprising six members, appointed by them, with experience of dealing with parading issues have been tasked with bringing forward agreed outcomes.
This work will begin immediately and will be completed within three weeks.
The way forward, according to the Agreement, is to give local people the chance to provide local solutions as well as having respect for the rights of those who parade, and respect for the rights of those who live in areas through which they seek to parade. This includes the right for everyone to be free from sectarian harassment;
• Recognising that at times there are competing rights;
• Transparency, openness and fairness;
• Independent decision making.
However, despite the best intentions of those behind the new model, our information is that there will be no softening of attitudes in Dunloy and that it is a case of 'no deal now or in the future.'
The issue, according to our source, has become too deep rooted in alleged mistrust, public utterances and actions in the past.
"The vast majority of people in Dunloy have gone 14 years without a parade. We held out the olive branch in the past and it was rejected. There's little stomach for compromise now," our source insisted.
He added: "Dunloy is 100 per cent nationalist and the days of Loyal Orders marching through at various times of the year has long gone. Another factor is that none of the Loyal Orders live or work here. They can sit down, stand up, or lie down, it won't make one bit of difference to our thinking.
"You could also say it has become personal. People here haven't forgotten how the Dunloy band paraded during the Chapel protests in Harryville, Ballymena. Whatever their intentions, nationalists took great exception to it.
"Every Sunday in this village, decent people come to their church, park on both sides of the road and no one says a thing to them. We would never dream of doing so.
"But the Loyal Orders parading here is an entirely different matter. Dunloy is NOT an open door nor will it be. We did talk to the Orangemen at one stage several years ago and agreed, in principle, a number of parades, but we felt we were let down afterwards by certain events and there's been nothing positive ever since.
Sinn Fein knows our position and has been told what the feeling is here on the ground."
Our source said he felt Rasharkin was a different matter.
"It's a case of people from the village belonging to one of the Loyal Orders. That being the case, I think there is some justification for them being permitted to parade, but only on the basis of proper negotiation and taking into account the attitude and feelings of the nationalist community."
The new framework says that where there is a need, support will be provided to help local communities and those who parade to find local solutions to contentious parades and related protests. This, it is said, will encourage local accommodation and will take account of lessons to be learnt from successful local models. It is envisaged that in the case of the most difficult situations, additional ongoing support will be provided to encourage resolution of contention.
The new body will promote and support direct dialogue with, and the involvement of, representatives of the Loyal Orders, band parade organisers, local residents' groups and other stakeholders, as this work is advanced. It will also encourage the participation of local elected representatives in the process of resolution.
The current adjudication mechanism of the Parades Commission will continue until the new improved arrangements are in place.
Parading - Timetable
Assumes maximum priority in Assembly at all stages.
FM/dFM appoint working group 8 February
Working group begins work 9 February
Working group completes work and reports on agreed outcomes to for the parades legislation late March/early April.


It would appear as though the people of Dunloy having been exposed in the past to the disgusting exhibitions of Orange Order triumphalism associated with these “contentious parades” are of an opinion that does not necessarily agree with that contained in the Hillsborough Agreement. There could very well be people in other areas who share the feelings expressed in this article and who are not ready or willing to accept Orange Order parades in their communities. The parade issue could prove to be a “very hard sell” to the Nationalist community.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Devolution deal welcomed by most

Devolution deal welcomed by most
Fri, Feb 05, 2010 - Irish Times

The deal between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin at Hillsborough Castle today has been welcomed as a new beginning for Northern Ireland by the majority of political parties.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton described the agreement as “another important step toward a full and lasting peace”.

She applauded the parties for reaching an agreement and said Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have “displayed the kind of leadership that the people of Northern Ireland deserve”.

Mrs Clinton said: “This is not the end of the journey. So far, the devolution process has enabled Northern Ireland's leaders to enact a range of needed reforms, from health to housing to environmental safety.

“Now they have even greater authority, and with that authority comes greater responsibility. They must continue to lead.”

She promised assistance from the US saying the Economic Envoy, Declan Kelly, will "continue working to help Northern Ireland reap the dividends of peace, including economic growth, international investment, and new opportunities.“

British prime minister Gordon Brown described it as a “the last chapter of a long and troubled story and the beginning of a new chapter after decades of violence, years of talks, weeks of stalemate.”

He predicted that the settlement would help build a lasting peace and is an “essential step for peace stability and security in Northern Ireland”.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said it laid the foundations for a new future. “That better future must be built on mutual respect for people of different traditions, equality and tolerance and respect for each other’s political aspirations and cultural expressions and inheritance,” he said.

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said although some “will play politics” with the agreement, “the real focus in the months to come must be on building an administration at Stormont that our whole community identifies with and supports.”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said that as an Irish republican he wanted to see a united Ireland but recognised that unionists preferred to maintain links with Britain.

He insisted both communities could and should live together in mutual respect. “We need to make life better for our children and grandchildren,” he said. “That is what this agreement must mean in practice.”

However, in an early sign of potential discord, the Ulster Unionist party earlier declined to attend the round table meeting with the two premiers. During the negotiations the party consistently complained that it had been kept in the dark.

Leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice, Jim Allister described the agreement as a “sordid deal [that] guarantees more instability” and a “bad and humiliating staging post deal for unionism”. He accused the DUP of capitulating to Sinn Féin demands and said the DUP had got nothing in return.

Just like the promise on policing and justice in the St Andrew's Agreement was a ticking time-bomb for Unionism, so the undertakings on the Irish Language and north/southery will be the new smouldering opportunity for fresh blackmail, the next time Sinn Féin needs to gorge on DUP concessions at its next staging post,” Mr Allister said.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the deal has averted the prospect of a prolonged period of instability and uncertainty. “The challenge now of the parties is to work together to deliver on the implementing the remaining elements of the Good Friday Agreement so that the people of Northern Ireland can be convinced that the political process can deliver real improvements to their lives.”

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said he hoped the agreement will now lead to a period of greater political stability and certainty in Northern Ireland. “The Good Friday Agreement set out ‘mutual respect’ as the basis for relationships in Northern Ireland and if Northern Ireland is to continue to move forward there is a need for all parties to reaffirm commitment to this principle," he said.

The Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Seán Brady "warmly" welcomed the deal. “Respectful dialogue and a willingness to treat each other with dignity and respect have been shown time and time again to be the most effective way of resolving the issues which challenge our society," he said.

Church of Ireland Primate of All-Ireland, Reverend Alan Harper said the commitment of the political parties to bring the talks to a “fruitful conclusion is to be praised and welcomed”.

He said the fact that parading and Irish language issues also featured in the deal should be seen as “offering additional confidence to both traditions in our society”.


While this or any agreement between the parties should, by all means, be welcomed by anybody with an interest in the future of the North of Ireland, it should also be viewed as a first step in a long process. I think that most people who are in any way familiar with the past history of the Stormont government would hope that implementation of this agreement will be successful. However, at this early stage, a more realistic approach to success would be for the parties to move forward with cautious optimism. In the meantime, congratulations are due to all participants in the negotiations that resulted in the agreement.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Adams trapped in web spun by Sinn Fein's own deceit

Adams trapped in web spun by Sinn Fein's own deceit

It suits republican leader Gerry Adams to claim that the DUP is in breach of the St Andrews agreement on policing and justice. But nothing could be further from the truth, argues Pete Baker

The current implicit threat to the stability of the Northern Ireland Assembly is a result of the Sinn Fein leadership's dissembling over the St Andrews agreement.

By 2006, the Northern Bank robbery and the murder of Robert McCartney had focused minds within the Bush administration and, through Special Envoy Mitchell Reiss, pressure was being brought to bear on Sinn Fein.

As Mary Alice Clancy detailed in a 2007 article: "Although decommissioning was welcomed by the US, officials still wanted republicans to sign up to policing and Reiss continued to deny fundraising visas to Sinn Fein as a means of expediting its endorsement of the PSNI."

In 2006, a series of interviews by the Irish Times' Frank Millar identified Sinn Fein's support for the police as a requirement for the restoration of the Assembly. In a June 10 article that year, Millar quoted Reiss: "There is no difference of opinion at this moment between the British, Irish and American governments on the issue of policing."

However, a previous Sinn Fein Ard Fheis had imposed conditions on the party's negotiating team ahead of the St Andrews summit.

Those conditions included achieving "a DUP commitment to an acceptable timeframe for the transfer of powers on policing and justice" before an Ard Fheis could be convened to take the decision on supporting the police.

Sinn Fein's failure to get that commitment at St Andrews was hidden behind the two governments' stated 'view' that the target date included in their document was achievable. Shortly afterwards, the US fundraising ban was lifted.

Then British Secretary of State Peter Hain initially colluded in the concealment by declaring in Parliament on November 21, 2006 that the agreement included "a clear commitment and a target of May 2008 for the devolution of policing and justice powers". Later, on January 10, 2007, he clarified the situation, identifying May 2008 as "a Government objective".

The Sinn Fein leadership eventually convened a Special Ard Fheis on January 28, 2007, anyway, and took responsibility for making the call on policing away from party delegates.

In May 2007, Sinn Fein ministers duly took the oath of office, pledging support for the police.

For the next year Sinn Fein publicly maintained the pretence that a May 2008 deadline not only existed, but could be enforced.

When Secretary of State Shaun Woodward stated in his 2008 New Year message that it was "for the parties to decide when the time is right", the revealing response from Sinn Fein MLA Caral Ni Chuilín was: "The British Government's commitment to the devolution of policing and justice powers by May 2008 was central to the decision of republicans and nationalists to engage with the policing structures earlier this year."

Whenever it was pointed out that only the parties could decide when that would happen the Sinn Fein leadership just repeated the fiction they had sold to its members.

When May 2008 came and went, Martin McGuinness finally admitted in the Assembly that "agreement between the political parties, as you well know, remains the key determinant before detailed steps can be taken to implement devolution of justice''.

Before May there had already been a new Ard Fheis motion demanding that the Sinn Fein leadership ‘set out’ in public, the party's position in relation to our involvement in the current policing structures should the British Government fail to devolve policing and justice powers by the 8th May 2008".

In June 2008, Sinn Fein began a boycott of the Executive. For five months they blocked business at a time when other administrations were devising economic strategies to survive the recession.

That phase of the saga ended in November 2008 with the announcement of a new mini-process. But, as Woodward acknowledged at the time, there was still "no date actually agreed by the politicians". On the day, Sinn Fein - alone among the Assembly parties - declined interviews about the announcement.

We reached the end of 2009 with a UK General Election on the horizon. The Sinn Fein leadership had still failed to deliver devolved policing and justice powers within the constraints of the 'indigenous' deal and Gerry Adams was back to peddling the self-serving line that the DUP was "in breach of the commitments it entered into at St Andrews".

Nothing could be further from the truth.


The above article with the following remarks has been distributed to several A.O.H. members by an official of the SDLP party in Ireland. I felt that in the interest of as many of our members as possible and others being well informed on the negotiations currently taking place in Stormont it should appear here as well.

For three years now the SDLP have been a lone voice in telling the people the truth about what happened and did not happen when the Good Friday Agreement was severely damaged by Sinn Fein / DUP at the St. Andrews Talks. Some would understandably say ‘you would say that – wouldn’t you’

But at last in an article by media commentator Pete Baker printed today (Feb 3rd) gets the point across about what happened and what definitely did not happen at the St Andrews talks in 2006.

P. J. Bradley.