James Brokenshire: the waste of space tells the parties they have a short space for talks

Here’s the British Secretary of State James Brokenshire on 10 March:

“If no agreement is reached in the short window following the election, there would be a number of significant consequences. There would be no Executive, no real budget, no Programme for Government and risks to public services. Ultimately we would also be facing a second election with ongoing disruption and uncertainty for businesses and the people of Northern Ireland that would bring.”

Here’s the same man yesterday, 27 March:

“I don’t think there is any appetite for any further immediate snap election. The public have only recently gone to the polls and delivered what, I think, is a very clear message in seeing and wanting to see devolved government back on its feet again.”

In other words, when little James says “If no agreement is reached in the short window following the election…we would also be facing a second election”, he really mean “I don’t think there is any appetite for any further immediate snap election”.  When James says black you must realise that he is really saying white. Clearly a man on whom we all can depend.

So what’s been happening over the last few days of discussion between the parties?  Well it’s hard to know. The DUP weren’t  in Stormont on Sunday, and on Monday they accused Sinn Féin of walking away from the talks. We also hear talk that the organisation of the talks was a shambles. There was no chairman- and no,  Virginia, little James would not have made a lovely little chairman, since the talks – does this need repeating  – the talks involved or should have involved not just our political parties but also the Irish and British government, the latter in the form of James Beag. The idea of a chairman is someone detached from the fray who can guide things. Which the SoS clearly is not.

So where are we headed? Well, I see today a suggestion that the pay of MLAs will be stopped after three months. I think that’s fair enough, and might provide the spur for people to come to their senses. Although any non-salary spur will be as nothing compared to the spur which the DUP and unionism in general have already received in the election.  The demographic clock can be heard ticking loudly in the corridors of Stormont, especially in the section inhabited by the DUP. They are walking a hugely difficult tight-rope. On the one hand, they can’t afford to look as though Sinn Féin is calling the tune – hence the refusal of Arlene to step aside temporarily while we all find out what the Cash for Ash thing was all about. On the other hand, they must abandon the arrogant tag,  if they’re to seem reasonable and not pour oil on the flames of indignation that carried Sinn Féin to such a stunning election performance.

A final thought: nobody knows what is going to happen. If they did, they would be down at the bookies, placing heavy money on a nag in the 3.30. We can only guess. My guess is that Sinn Féin will be looking for some very significant shift in the position of the DUP, in terms of an Irish Language Act,  commitment to past Agreements and a sea-change in attitude among  DUP politicians. All of these are a big ask: Arlene has said no Irish language act will pass under her watch; and to commit to aspects of the Good Friday Agreement or the St Andrew’s Agreement is to concede that, up to now, you haven’t been abiding by what you’ve signed up to.

The DUP must find a way to indicate that it wants to enter into an Executive partnership with the Shinners, a partnership based on mutual respect and willingness to develop reconciliation. If it fears that to do so would  alienate its electoral base, then it has a poor opinion of the people who elect its MLAs.  And I’m sufficiently optimistic/starry-eyed to believe that the unionist people are better than that.


29 Responses to James Brokenshire: the waste of space tells the parties they have a short space for talks

  1. TheHist March 28, 2017 at 8:50 am #

    The talks clearly need an independent arbitrator. A Senator George Mitchel type figure is needed. Colum Eastwood’s reaction yesterday in calling the set up “shambolic” illustrates the lack of effort and commitment to resolve the outstanding issues. Brokenshire is clearly out of his depth – clueless. But then again the appointment of same to SoS is a clear illustration of what the Tories really think of the North. We most certainly have witnessed some of the worst political appointments to the position of SoS in recent times. Allied to this, the lack of concern from the Irish Government also speaks volumes. When the rest of Europe is concentrating on the triggering of article 50 and its future implications, we don’t even have a sitting government. Its mental!

  2. Cal March 28, 2017 at 9:23 am #

    I’m not sure having an executive in place that May can ignore continually on brexit is that bigga deal.

    • TheHist March 28, 2017 at 9:58 am #

      I would rather be ignored fighting and making my point than ignored not fighting and not making my point, Cal. I am assuming many citizens in the North would want an ear and a voice in future Brexit negotiations, as a devolved region, than being on the outside and having absolutely no say.

      • ben madigan March 28, 2017 at 7:09 pm #

        having a voice (see Scotland) seems to have made no difference. May’s government may have been listening but they didn’t take anything on board.
        So a working Stormont administration with a viewpoint on Brexit probably wouldn’t have and won’t count for anything.
        On the other hand, lack of a Stormont administration together with Scotland’s decision to hold another Indyref does signal to the EU that May’s negotiators can’t speak for the whole of the UK and particularly not for those areas that voted Remain.
        In other words – 2 spanners in the works!!

    • billy March 28, 2017 at 10:08 am #

      yes your right,its not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things,more of a glorified county council wasting tax payers money when a dozen or so civil servants could do the job.

  3. jessica March 28, 2017 at 9:52 am #

    “The DUP must find a way to indicate that it wants to enter into an Executive partnership with the Shinners, a partnership based on mutual respect and willingness to develop reconciliation.”

    Is the truth not that it does not want a partnership based on mutual respect and willingness to develop reconciliation, but to be able to claim they are being forced to work with the devil in order to do the work of God?

    That the devil must not be given in to, but made to know its place and accept only the righteous can call the shots and through steely determination, prevent a rewriting of the holy ulster bible truth and to guide us sinners into the light.

  4. fiosrach March 28, 2017 at 10:08 am #

    As I said previously, the DUP are presenting themselves as the party of responsibility,of conciliation and adult behaviour. They – along with the neutral, unionist, British pro consul – are starting to trot out the old familiar no budget, dead and dying clogging up the hospital forecourts, jobs being lost and worst of all – no government in the province to fight to the death to assuage the effects of Brexit that the DUP voted for. It’s back to the old days when a pipe bomb was found in a hedge and they come out with the old line that just seven days before or in the old used -to – be a thousand women, babies and schoolchildren could have been walking along that stretch of road. Isn’t propaganda wonderful in the right hands? Anyway if you state that you feel same sex marriage to be one of your political must haves and all the other “nations” of the United Kingdom have it, then what compromise can you make? It’s agreed or it’s not agreed. Likewise a language act. It can be chewed over costwise but the principle is not for sale. So get ready for the Pharisees of the DUP spewing their fake concern to pressurise the community to in turn pressurise Sinn Féin.

    • paddykool March 28, 2017 at 11:17 am #

      No pressure here, fiosrach..I’ll wait ….It only takes a little patience and if the DUP weren’t fit for government three months ago with all their scandals and other nonsense, what’s going to make them any better now or in a few more weeks, months or years?Let’s see how they get along without their arses polishing those soft seats, for a change.They have n’t got a clue and it looks like they never will. If Theresa May gets herself well-enmeshed into the almighty twist that is Brexit…which she doesn’t evenreally want (hardy har, har) , how’s she going to deal with Scotland and Norneverland as well when they start to really cavil? If her Brexit plans continue we’ll all have to get well-used to tightening our belts ,like it’s 1950 again ,anyway, so now might be a good time to start practicing.

      • fiosrach March 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm #

        The only problem,Harry, is this is not a street fight between two well matched pugilists but a carefully rigged scrap with a daddy hovering in the background and in their garden. The even playing fields of Eton.

      • billy March 28, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

        shes already dealt with scotland and n/ireland.scotland have had their vote,they voted stay.n/ireland is dealt with in the gfa.scare stories about brexit,tightening belts ect are just that,nobodys listening brexit goes ahead as planned.

  5. Perkin Warbeck March 28, 2017 at 10:47 am #

    ‘Céad Míle Fáilte’ is, of course, Esteeemed Blogmeister, one of the defining phrases of Ireland, right up there with ‘Olé, Olé, Olé’ , ‘So the Young may see the Morn’ and ‘Together Standing Tall ’ itself.

    It captures the very essence of our being as a race, a race against Tuam: our OVER friendliness.

    And as that, erm, fly on the walls of Londonderry, Gregory of the Crooked Mouth, the noted linguisit, will aver, with the straightest of straight faces , of all the Hundred Thousand Welcomes on the Mattress perhaps the most cordial is none other than:

    -Fáilte Uí Cheallaigh / Kelly’s Welcome.

    And he ought to know, being a denizen of the same city as, say, Spider Kelly and a prominent member of the same body politic as, say, Arlene Kelly-Foster.

    Sadly, for whatever reason, the same Arlene’s welcome for the Leprechaun Act (let us not mince words here – ceallaigh can also mean, (gasp) colcannon or mashed potatoes, according to the Dictionary of Dineeen).


    Arl’s Fáitle Uí Cheallaigh’s for Kellog’s
    Flakes , toast and scrambled eggnogs
    This nice Voice of U
    Likes to Snarlez –vous
    The snap, c. and pop of the Lep Frogs.

  6. michael c March 28, 2017 at 11:12 am #

    Eastwood is mouthing platitudes about the parties “must agree”.is there no journalist who will ask this political pygmy will he support a government that fails to act on language,legacy or equality and will he allow Foster in again at this stage?

  7. Belfastdan March 28, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    It is plain to see that the tactic of the DUP, their best mate Mr Brokenshire and the Unionist press is to try to pressurise SF into returning to the Assembly no matter what.

    You only have to look at todays hysterical headline in the Newsletter “SF are holding us all to ransom” to see what their game is.

    No deal is better than a bad deal. SF cannot back down on any issue. They were elected to play hard ball and that is what they must do.

  8. fiosrach March 28, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

    I wonder who the ‘us’ is in the Newsletter headline. Does it include the ‘decent’ people, the ‘right thinking’ people and the non- voters?

  9. Ryan March 28, 2017 at 1:34 pm #

    Its obvious the DUP will need to make significant gestures in order to get Sinn Fein back into the Executive. I’m sure that simple request for Arlene to step aside for a few weeks (as Peter Robinson had done, on 2 occasions) back before Christmas looks like such a sweet deal now compared to what the DUP have to do today. But that’s always been the trait of Unionism, they refuse to give an inch and end up giving a lot more when forced to. Most of them don’t realize that compromise can be the wise and good thing.

    It reminds me of the Sunningdale Agreement. The DUP opposed power sharing with the very moderate SDLP and sunk the agreement, an agreement which didn’t even give parity of esteem to Irish-British and had very little Irish Government involvement. Instead the DUP after years of refusing to give an inch had to settle for the Good Friday Agreement, which set up North-South bodies, give parity to Irish and set out the terms for a border poll. Again, Unionism refusing to give an inch, refusing to compromise but in the end they finish up with a much worse deal from their perspective. Will Unionist politicians ever learn? I doubt it. They also fear the reaction from their own electorate to any compromise because they themselves had long taught their electorate that “Not an Inch” and “No Surrender” was the call.

    I’m not getting carried away but I don’t think Irish Unity has ever been closer than it is today.

  10. fiosrach March 28, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

    Ryan, we haven’t got Irish language never mind Irish unity. These poor people are fighting for their religious,political and cultural lives. It’s not a matter of he who fights and runs away. They know this is the last round up and that’s why they will be dragged kicking and screaming every step of the way to equality and parity. It will – as a wise man once said – break the bastards.

  11. Freddie mallins March 28, 2017 at 3:58 pm #

    No, the ‘us’ refers to the good ‘folk’ of Norneverland and ‘folk’ of course means the loyal pradisin people, noone else. But then no one else matters in the Newsletter, a paper that to this day refuses to report on Gaelic games because it would so disgust their readership, you know the good folk. And it is nothing to do with lack of interest. The Irish news reports on hockey results and I would hazzard a guess that the hockey playing Irish news readership is negligible.

  12. Christopher March 28, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

    SF should not have red lined Arlene as First Minister. It was too specific and too personal and impossible for DUP to concede.

  13. fiosrach March 28, 2017 at 4:37 pm #

    ……. Unless they knew that the DUP couldn’t concede?

    • PF March 28, 2017 at 4:41 pm #

      Which means what?

      • fiosrach March 28, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

        You’re an astute observer. What’s your opinion?

        • PF March 28, 2017 at 8:38 pm #

          Why would I want to second guess SF? Why would I even think I could second guess SF?

          But you seem to be saying that they chose a requirement of the DUP they knew in advance that the DUP could not meet.

          If that is true then there must have been a reason for that.

          I wonder if you have any thoughts on what it is.

          • fiosrach March 28, 2017 at 11:20 pm #

            No no! I asked you first.

          • PF March 29, 2017 at 9:01 am #

            Well, in that case, my answer is that I don’t have any idea what might be going on.

  14. Mark March 28, 2017 at 5:07 pm #

    On the point of ceasing MLA pay packet’s after three months, the DUP have quite a bit to loose should this go ahead. They’re presently maintaining offices which were those of now failed candidates, there’s quite a bit of money being paid out for these, perhaps they need a heating grant to keep them open?
    On James Brokenshire, I have a certain sympathy for him. He is in the similar position to his one time Tory predecessor Mayhew, he is having to carefully play the unionists in case, should their slim Dail majority fail, they rely upon the unionists to carry votes in their country. Major managed to keep, then, curious James and Eóin mór (possibly even more curious), in check to maintain a full Dail term. They know, in Tory central, they may be in the same position again, as Brexit looms so poor James is having to play the coy lord lieutenant, stoops haven’t sufficient seats, and could, politically, not support Tory policy anyhow, the Party of unionist left wingism somehow can, as will the remainder of the old Tory & Unionist party so, James is not going to cave, in any way, to the demands of Irish taxpayer’s, our government are as useful as jump leads on a bike, who will continue to pay their due’s for decreasing return.

  15. jessica March 29, 2017 at 9:48 am #

    It is really down to the british state to make a move on truth now.

    Otherwise, we are all wasting our time. You simply cannot build peace on lies and deceit.
    Brexit or no brexit, can we really prioritise trade with a country that could hold us in such contempt?

    Sinn Fein have stepped up to the plate, it is now up to Dublin to show some backbone and have some moral courage.

    • Christopher March 29, 2017 at 3:06 pm #

      Not sure how you think SF have stepped up to the plate any more than other parties. I repeat, by red lining the Arlene Foster as FM issue, they have made it practically impossible for the DUP to reach agreement.

  16. jessica March 29, 2017 at 6:12 pm #

    The ball is with the british state to sort out how we deal with the past once and for all.
    The DUP need to move on an Irish language act and embracing equality, Arlene is the least of their problems.

  17. Christopher March 30, 2017 at 8:30 am #

    Let’s be honest, we’re going to deal with the past the way we always deal with the past – hide it, don’t talk about and then mythologise it.

    We’d be better just forgetting it. The IRA and the British security forces are never going to own up in detail about anything. It’s just a negotiating piece for all concerned which does nothing for victims.

    Some sort of languages act will be agreed at some point.

    And same sex marriage and abortion have precisely nothing to do with equality so I hope the DUP don’t move on those anytime soon.