It’s amazing how, if you look at them for more than two minutes, the issues that are being debated noon, night and morning up at Stormont become simple and straightforward. The devolution of policing and justice was agreed at St Andrew’s (despite what the supple-brained Edwin Poots claimed this morning) but the DUP don’t want to accede to such devolution if they think they can squeeze more concessions out of Sinn Fein. They want to do this partly because they enjoy squeezing Fenians and partly because they have hot-breath Jim Allister panting in their right ear. So they look for a big concession they can wave around as a prized counterbalance to such devolution. And what do they come up with? What do they think is the one thing that will win the approval of unionists and, more importantly, their votes? (If you’re of a despondent nature, look away now – this next bit is calculated to bring on a fit of the blue meanies.) The right of the Orange Order to march through nationalist areas.
That’s the glittering prize the DUP crave. Now that is depressing. Does it mean that the majority of unionists really really want the Orange Order to parade in areas where it’s not wanted? Since I fervently hope not, I’ll tell myself that such sad sentiments are harboured by a much-courted minority of unionists, not the majority of the unionist people . If I’m wrong, then Charlie Haughey was right: this is truly a failed state.
Still – nil desperandum. In these dark nights of near-despair, there’s always a shout of laughter to be had. It was provided this time by Alex Attwood at 1.30 a.m. In that schoolboy-solemn way peculiar to him, Alex explained that what was needed to get people real was the inclusion of the SDLP in the discussions. What was it Brendan Behan said? ‘I have never seen a situation so dismal that the presence of a policeman could not make it worse’. Strike policeman, insert SDLP.