Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Another New Dawn in NI

A lot of “historic” hype in the media coverage of yesterday’s agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein. It reminded me of the day the Good Friday Agreement was finally signed, after days & nights of “will they, won’t they? “ coverage. That was 9 years ago and I had tears in my eyes back then, but not this time around.

Let’s wait and see what happens in May - I hope the assembly gets up and running, but there’s no guarantee that DUP and Sinn Fein can actually work constructively together. My reservations were strengthened by the appearance of Gregory Campbell, DUP MP & MLA, on RTE’s Questions & Answers last night, a special edition broadcast from Belfast.

Campbell was quick to make the point that Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Hain, must be busy wiping the egg from his face after the DUP had shown him that he wouldn’t impose deadlines on them. Thankfully, John Bowman firmly pointed out to Campbell that the deferral of devolution had only been accepted by the British Government on the basis that the DUP had been forced to negotiate this deal, very publicly, with their arch-enemies Sinn Fein.

Campbell is from the anti-power sharing wing of the DUP and is tipped for ministerial office, along with Nigel Dodds, as Paisley seeks to maintain unity within his party. However, Campbell’s contribution last night is typical of the long-standing DUP approach to politics: it is not sufficient to defeat your opponent, you must also seek to humiliate him publicly as well.

Does this augur well for the type of working relationships necessary to make a devolved NI government successful? I don’t think so.

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