Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Shades of Dennis Healey Envelop Brown on his Way to Northern Ireland

“The right to vote a party out of government, the right to have an opposition - is that too much for anyone in the 21st century to ask? I think not, and yet those are the two seminal democratic rights . . . the people of Northern Ireland . . . are denied. That is not a basis on which government can be sustained."

“It’s vital for the interests of Northern Ireland that policing and justice is not devolved to an executive in which IRA/Sinn Féin hold the sway of veto....I hope there are yet within the DUP enough people of conscience and backbone to say no to the blandishments of this deal,” (Jim Allister,Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader, speaking today on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.)

The determined hold-out against the kind of power-sharing practised in Northern Ireland (and, as a comment from Weekend Yachtsman points out in an earlier post, the European Union), and its baleful effects is continuing. Brown's absence from the debate in the House of Commons on the 'London Afghan Conference' (fanfare of trumpets, oh, sorry, small damp squib) which he had called and hosted was up to his usual standards of discourtesy to our democratic institutions Unfortunately it led to his immediate undoing over Ireland.

During a statement about last week’s conference Mr Miliband was questioned by Conservative MP Bernard Jenkins on the prime minister’s reasons from being absent from the debate, given that he had hosted the summit.

“Where is he?” “He’s in Northern Ireland, actually.”,

was the 'he has more important things to do than be here' answer from the Foreign Secretary. But no. Democracy was still resisting in Northern Ireland and powers of the state to enforce justice and the civil order had not been conceded to the political wing of the IRA, despite the best efforts of the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and of Ireland, both current and previous.

Mr Miliband corrected himself: “Although I had been reliably informed that the prime minister was on his way to Belfast, it now transpires that he is not on his way to Belfast because the situation in the ... for various reasons which I won’t go into actually."

Brown had set off but had ordered his car to turn back on its way to the airport. Shades of Dennis Healey and the intervention of the IMF in the last collapse of the United Kingdom economy under the last Labour government. Downing Street said it could not rule out a visit to Belfast by the Prime Minister, but he was planning to work in Number 10 today.

"British sources rejected suggestions that Mr Brown had been “on the way to the airport and turned back at the last minute”. (Irish Times)


DUP MP Gregory Campbell has said any deal on policing and justice would have to be put to public consultation.

“We have been saying for about three years that what was required at the conclusion of discussions on policing and justice was community confidence. How would we know if there is community confidence? Well, we go and ask them, the wider community, we go and ask them,... If we come to a point where agreement is reached, in our view it would be insufficient for us to say, ‘well, that’s it now, we have agreed. Proceed.’ We say we should put that out to the wider community and say, ‘now what do you think?’”

Declining to outine the means of public consultation, Mr Campbell denied this was a delaying tactic by those keen to postpone the implementation of any deal with Sinn Féin.

“.... Because of the historical baggage of Sinn Féin, [some baggage, ed.] there has been a problem, particularly in the unionist community - but not exclusively so - and we have had to negotiate the situation whereby Sinn Féin do not become eligible for the position of justice and policing minister."

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