Thursday, April 20, 2006


Hain sweet talks the unionists

I see Peter Hain has been buttering up the unionist politicians by assuring them that the "Joint Stewardship" proposed by the Irish and British governments in their recent proposals for restoring devolution is not tantamount to Joint Authority.

On Tuesday night the British Secretary of State had to respond to DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson who accused Mr Blair and Mr Ahern of issuing a crass, foolish threat to unionists which was contrary to the concept of any principle of consent in the north of Ireland.

However, impressively keeping a straight face, Hain soothed:

"There is absolutely no question of joint authority or joint government at all.

"There is plenty of scope for practical co-operation provided through the architecture of the Good Friday Agreement cross-Border co-operation across a number of areas on energy, the economy, on child offending, on getting rid of unfair mobile phone roaming charges and having a single all-island mobile phone rate.

"On all those issues and many more, there is tremendous scope for future co-operation and, indeed, much of it is already taking place but there is no question of joint authority at all."

Sure Peter. Riiiiigggghhhht.

I can't lie I'm a politician!

I would expect unionists to believe Hain's words about as much as they did when he stated the North's economy was unsustainable in the long-term and when he suggested an all-Ireland economy!

If unionists are duped by these words then they are very gullible indeed. I mean, in all honesty, if Bertie or Dermot Ahern were challenged in the same manner by Peter Robinson then I would fully expect the Irish politicians to respond in the exact same way as Peter Hain. "Joint Authority? Get out of here ya mad thing!"

Of course those of us with common sense know better. The words of the recent 'Joint Statement' make things quite clear:

"If restoration of the Assembly and Executive has to be deferred, the Governments agree that this will have immediate implications for their joint stewardship of the process.

"We are beginning detailed work on British-Irish partnership arrangements that will be necessary in these circumstances..."

This is de facto Joint Authority. Some would say we have that anyway by virtue of these 'Joint Statements' but I have a feeling the Irish government will try and ensure that "Joint Stewardship" is as far-reaching as possible. There are elections on the horizon here in the South and we take matters in the North very seriously...

Unionists would do well to learn from our own shared history. In 1916 when Home Rule was still on the agenda in Ireland and when there was a debate about Partition and the idea of certain counties being excluded, Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond got a promise from Lloyd George that any exclusion of 6 counties would be temporary whereas Ulster Unionist leader Edward Carson got a promise that any exclusion would be permanent.

The telling difference? Carson's promise from Lloyd George was in writing unlike Redmond's.

Unionists should remember that the words of British politicians don't really count for much. Written statements however are a different story!


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