Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Joint Authority - The winning hand

Paisley thinks he has the better of us?As has been documented before on United Irelander, the restoration of power-sharing in Ireland's north looks a non-starter at this stage due to DUP intransigence.

Quite frankly, DUP leader Ian Paisley does not want political progress in Ireland's north.

Imagine my surprise and delight then when I came across this very interesting article in the Irish News (hat tip Slugger) where Denis Bradley suggests that Joint Authority may be the best solution for the North's future.

Joint Authority isn't something that is openly discussed these days. I have discussed it here on United Irelander and I know it has been discussed on Balrog before also but I've not heard it mentioned often in the mainstream media, so I'm glad that it has been mooted by Denis Bradley. For those not aware of the concept, it would involve the British ceding to Ireland joint authority over the North which would be governed by a commission of representatives from Dublin and London. Mr Bradley writes a very sensible article and his argument is compelling:

Unionist politicians of all shades go berserk at the mention of joint authority. They cry foul and dangerous.

I have known politicians from that tradition who have been able to discuss a united Ireland with more equilibrium and rationality than they have been able to discuss joint authority.

Those same politicians talk quite eloquently and sensibly about the need for Sinn Féin or the IRA or both to reassure and build trust in the unionist community. They never appear to understand or address the converse of that very sensible argument. They never seem to understand that the nationalist/Catholic community needs reassurance and confidence about their future.

And they are certainly not getting it at the moment.

Every vibe coming from unionist politicians and particularly from the DUP is that they would be more than content to live under direct rule forever and a day.

Joint authority has much to recommend it. It incarnates the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement in giving equal expression to both traditions. It neuters all the paramilitary organisations. It draws a clear line between politically motivated actions and criminal actions. It encourages all of our parties to move beyond the suffocating parameters of the Troubles.

It shames our own politicians and prods all of them into finding a way into their own regional government. But maybe its greatest attraction is that it will slowly but very surely evoke and define an answer as to whom we believe in most and, more importantly, who believes in us?

Mr Bradley makes some good points and I think it's time to start considering Joint Authority as a real and viable alternative. Yes it must be said that the issue would be outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement but it would be engineered as a contigency plan and would encourage the North's politicians to restore devolution. The DUP don't seem too fussed about devolution. In a recent poll highlighted on UI here, only 39% of DUP members felt that, in the right context, the party should share power with Sinn Féin and 37% admitted to preferring Direct Rule. The DUP have been laughing it up whilst ignoring the wishes of the majority of Irish people who want power-sharing restored.

Time to wipe the smile off their faces
We hate you all!

It is high time the two governments challenged unionist intransigence and Joint Authority is the card to play.

Direct Rule only suits one portion of the North's society. It is not a fair system for the North. Joint Authority would be a fair system as it would be Direct Rule, but from Dublin as well as London.

Dr Paisley has made a mockery of the peace process enough already. This bigot has bullied and belittled for too damn long. It's time to stand up to him.

The situation in the North has become a game of poker and the stakes are high. Paisley and his merry band of minions think they have the governments beaten and that they have the people silenced but Joint Authority is a winning hand.

Paisley has set the tone. He wants to play hardball. Fine. Let's play hardball.


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