Monday, March 06, 2006


Monday Madness - Phony process

They have their work cut out for themI imagine most of you are familiar with the 'Phony War', the point in time in the months following Germany's invasion of Poland in World War 2 where there was relatively little fighting. Well, it seems to me like we're all in the midst of a 'phony' situation ourselves at this point in time - a phony political process.

It has recently emerged that the British government has postponed talks that were to have taken place between Irish and British ministers and the north’s political parties from this week.

They were to have met at Stormont on Wednesday – the date some of you may recall was set some weeks ago by the North's Secretary of State Peter Hain as a deadline for a first stage agreement on possible rule changes for a future Assembly.

The talks are off because Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair are meeting in London on Wednesday and Peter Hain and Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern are expected to be attending.

In Belfast however, there was a suspicion calling off the talks had more to do with a lack of progress than anything else. Last month Mr Blair pulled out of an expected visit to Belfast to meet he parties – again because there was little or no sign of a breakthrough in the political impasse.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Reg Empey said he was not surprised the Belfast talks had been cancelled:

"It was no surprise to learn that the first deadline of the present talks will come and go on Wednesday without it being a deadline at all."

"Wednesday’s meetings between the parties, Peter Hain and Dermot Ahern are to be cancelled. While an embarrassment for the government it was better to call ’time out’ on what was becoming a process that did not have the support of most of the parties."

His party had warned the British government not to start its search for a new breakthrough from the 2004 deal with Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionists which had failed and from which Sinn Féin was "rowing away from as fast as possible".

A more strategic approach was needed, he said, expressing the hope that the Ahern-Blair meeting would provide it.

A Downing Street spokesman said the north’s parties would not be invited to take part in the Wednesday meeting and there was little likelihood of either a joint British-Irish news conference or statement afterwards.

Space available - not cheap
It continues to lie there

The situation certainly looks bleak in Ireland's north right now. It feels as if I haven't posted on the North in a while and that's because, to be blunt, there's nothing really to post about. The North is entrenched in its political limbo and for the two governements it must feel more like hell.

Where is the sense of leadership from the North's parties? We all know that the DUP don't want progress but surely the other parties could come together and show some resolve? It's amazing to think that these people are elected representatives - elected presumably to show leadership - and yet they are waiting around for Dublin and London to think of something.

On the one hand this makes me very angry but on the other hand I can't help but feel fed up about the whole thing. This sense of apathy seems to be shared by Mr Blair and you can't help but feel that both Blair and Ahern are getting sick and tired of the political mess in the North that they have both spent so much of their time and energy on.

The North is crying out for a glimmer of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel, but dark clouds continue to hang ominously over Stormont.

The Phony War didn't last too long and as we know eventually the world witnessed conflict on a scale which had never been seen before.

One wonders though how long the North's phoney politial process will go on for. Ultimately, will a lasting political situation be found and if so, what will it be?

What's clear is that those dark clouds looming over Stormont don't appear to be moving any time soon. The forecast is not good.


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