21 September 2008

Dark Clouds gather over Stormont

The leader of the liberal cross-community Alliance Party in the North has warned that if the Stormont Executive does not meet in the coming days, the DUP and Sinn Féin would "push Northern Ireland once again towards the edge of the abyss".

Addressing an Alliance party conference, David Ford (right) said that talk of the devolution of Justice and policing powers now was premature.
With Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) still deadlocked over the devolution of policing powers and the Executive failing to meet last Thursday, the Alliance Party leader focused on the current political stalemate.

There had been speculations that Ford might be offered the post of Justice Minister as one of the solutions to the impasse. But he told party members that this was premature and accused the DUP and Sinn Féin of "delivering only the politics of confrontation", adding that his party would "play a constructive part" in any way they could.
But he also told delegates they would "not be used to apply a sticking plaster" to cover what he called "a serious fault line within the Executive".

On Friday the DUP boycotted a North-South ministerial meeting, a further sign of the dark clouds that are recently gathering over Stormont (left).
The 1998 Good Friday Agreement includes an all-Ireland political dimension on the demand of nationalists, but now that structure has begun to fall victim to the growing crisis.

The North-South agriculture meeting in Co. Cavan was to involve two ministers from both sides of the border, but the North's Environment Minister Sammy Wilson (DUP) did not attend.
Northern Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew (Sinn Féin) went ahead with the meeting, even though it was not held under the auspices of the North-South Ministerial Council.
She held discussions with the Republic's Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith and Éamon O Cuív, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (both Fianna Fáil).

On Thursday Sinn Féin had blocked a Northern cabinet meeting in protest at the DUP's failure to agree on a date for the devolution of policing and justice powers.
DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson (right) said the tactic made it "impossible" to approve the cross-border event and so the DUP minister scheduled to attend did not turn up.

A demand by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for Northern politicians to agree a date for the devolution of policing powers was rejected by the DUP.

The 2006 St. Andrew's Agreement set May of this year as a target date for the transfer of the powers, but the DUP has said that the time is not yet right, without giving any explanation for their position.

For observers of the Northern political scene it appears that the DUP is once again trying to back-track on the various agreements they signed. One has to wonder if their word can actually be trusted, and if thus they can be really a force for good in the political and social development of the North.

The Emerald Islander

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