Dangerous And Combative Strategy Could Well End In Failure

Anthony McIntyre writing in the Belfast Telegraph, shares his views on the Save Stormont talks.

Less that a fortnight ago the “great and the good” assembled in Derry to bury Martin McGuinness and eulogise him for having abandoned the politics of coercion in favour of consent as part of a search for a resolution of the long running Northern conflict. 

Now they are faced with the task of resurrecting the political institutions of which, for many, McGuinness came to personify because of an almost ten-year tenure in the role of Deputy First Minister. There, he had joint responsibility for overseeing the type of internal power sharing solution favoured by the British state since Sunningdale in 1973. As they lowered him into the ground, they raised shoulder high the concept of power sharing within a partitioned Northern Ireland, under the unalloyed sovereignty of London. 

As the last breath exhaled from the body of McGuinness, plans were already under way to breathe life back into the North’s power sharing executive. That the patricians turned out in such force at the funeral was indicative of the importance attached to not interring the institutions along with the institution’s man. That high-octane investment of political energy in the funerary rites comes with a political price: do not be held responsible for scuttling the ship that has brought you so far. 

Despite the approach of Easter, even chiming as it will with the evangelical religious sentiment so at home in the DUP, the biblical myth of resurrection might seem redundant in the Northern context where it has long been quipped that no pessimist was ever proved wrong. Stormont is proving even harder to bring back to life than the Christian God. A feat that took only three days. 

Sinn Fein, having already collapsed the institutions and subsequently calling a halt to the post-election negotiations – described­ by many as shambolic – risk overplaying their hand. George Mitchell once described the party as being addicted to over-negotiating. Discursively, they are sailing close to the wind of perceived negativity and risk losing the moral high ground accrued through the political deification of McGuinness.

The DUP thus far have resisted succumbing to the paroxysm of rage which the presence of Gerry Adams tends to bring out in unionism. The party free fall was halted to some extent by Arlene Foster’s strategic parachuting into the McGuinness funeral where she was applauded in church.

There has been a remarkable clawing back of the ground they had previously churned up and kicked in the face of nationalism. Its “give the people what they want” has a more positive inflection than Sinn Fein’s “the government must stop pandering to the DUP.”

The DUP has, against all odds and expectations, managed to sound conciliatory, leaving Sinn Fein to wax combative. It senses that the public will be more forgiving of a failure to strike a deal with Adams than it would be if Michelle O’Neill was seen as the preeminent Sinn Fein negotiator. 

Adams, upping the stakes, is making the argument that in the wake of McGuinness, reaching a sustainable agreement is a hard ask. In a double-edged comment, he referred to the failure to have previous agreements honoured: “when you have somebody as big and as strong and formidable as Martin he could carry that to a certain degree for the rest of us.” Which hardly masks the obvious: McGuinness is being set up to carry the blame for the situation ever having been allowed to sink beneath the waterline. If Sinn Fein fails to have it resurface, all roads lead to London. James Brokenshire has all but confirmed as much. 

With the re-emergence of the old peace process ruse of ultimate deadline by endless postponement, extra time is now on offer.

Will Sinn Fein risk squandering its enhanced political capital by failing to invest it in the only institutional bank in town? A resort to the status quo of Direct Rule, even in the uncharted waters of Brexit, will leave the party looking as if it sold a horse and bought a saddle.


  1. I think Mitchell got it right re quisling $inn £eind and their negotiating skills ,all for the optics in my opinion ,every single crisis which we have had more than the average banana state that has been followed by intense negotiations have went to the wire and then as that famous cock crows for the third time we have a deal.this time the quisling jumped ship because like Gerry Itwasntme,s departure from West Belfast they saw the writing on the wall and it was saying you have had your day,the latest scandal RHI was not news to them ,we have yet to see how many of their cronies benefitted from it ,spermwhale Gildernews brother is a first on the list ,having sat on the news for over a year ,agreed a programme of government in Jan stating that all in the garden of weeden was rosey and the future was orange according to Givan the quislings jumped ship admitting that they had been made fools of for over 10 years ,someone will have be the fall guy here,and yes Martybroy being the dead parrot in this sketch fits the bill perfectly , he was after all in charge ,the figurehad of the quislings in that farce called Stormont , now as the maggots get to work the historians will maybe be tearing up the Whitehalls prepared scripts that quisling $inn £eind press dept have issued worldwide lauding the heroic achievememts that the late Martybroy brought to the world of northern nationalists,there is an old saying in republican circles "your only as good as your last job " MMcG will get the blame for the latest crisis eventually Michelle and Arlene two sisters suffering from misogyny will kiss and make up ,to much money being lost squabbling and the" PIECE PROCESS" must move on

  2. http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/the-ex-ira-men-united-ireland-it-s-all-guff-1.3041131

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  4. Anthony great article and food for thought
    I thought religious ceremonies are supposed to be apolitical. Well I suppose only when there is dissenting views but when sacret minds meet anything goes. Clinton dusted off his sperm coated suit and did not loose the opportunity, Foster left her sack of ashes and sectarianism at home and got the loudest acclaim, Adams, however, did not forget his many coloured houdini outfit and summoned the 'patriot dead' which now numbered MMcG. However when Blair threw his hat in the ring it was a step too far. Even the most humblest subservient platitudes couldn't shift the blood and tears of Iraq. It was embarrassing.

    One thing I would like to point to is SF's political position in the 26 counties. One good eye has to be kept on the political volatile situation where an impending election is due any time. They have to keep their core voter but also develop the left one and more importantly the middle of the road swinging one. A feat which would give Houdini a hard challenge but Adams is doing OK.

  5. It's only a matter of time before the institutions that haven't worked in 10 years are back up and running again....that's the irony of all this they are trying to resurrect a corpse and claim it to be Lazarus.
    The problem for SF and especially O'Neill is that they have made promises that they are unlikely to keep and how the keep their new support on board is going to be very difficult.....Irish language act isn't just going to cut it anymore. How can you seriously consider resurrecting institutions that didn't work!

  6. Niall,

    can you remember one promise ever made by SF that it did keep?