Monday, April 10, 2006


Plan B for NI - Joint Authority

Joint Authority is Plan BThere have been some very interesting comments emerging from Irish and British officials regarding Joint Authority, sorry Joint Stewardship, (always get those two mixed up!) and if you're a rejectionist unionist, it makes for bleak reading.

Let's face it, any kind of joint partnership talk is to unionists what a South Park episode on Scientology is to Tom Cruise. In other words, not very nice.

Bertie Ahern on Sunday talked to Sky News about 'Plan B' which involves the Irish and British governments implementing the Good Friday Agreement without any of the North's parties:

"Plan B ignores the politicians of Northern Ireland and the deals and co-operation and partnership basis between the two governments.

"We would have to do that because we're the custodians of the Agreement and we're the stewards of the process - but that is not by a long shot our preferred option.

"What the Irish government wants to do is to work with an assembly, to work with an executive to have the north-south ministerial council, working with northern politicians on these issues and working east-west between the two governments."

The Sunday Business Post reported that the joint governmental efforts are expected to centre around the areas of enhanced North-South cooperation, the human rights and equality agenda and the British-Irish dimension. And as the paper noted:

"It is hoped the threat of extension of Dublin’s influence and authority over the North, which is central to Plan B, will act as a spur - a threat, some might say - to Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party to form a Stormont administration with Sinn Fein."

These are no mere empty threats either as a Dublin source acknowledged:

"It’s the first time that they’ve really put Plan B on the table.

"Previously it’s been Plan A, Plan A, Plan A. Now the important thing is that they have a Plan B and they want to put flesh on it.

"The focus is on Plan A right now. But if people think there isn’t a Plan B, they’re making a big mistake.

"There will be a Plan B, and it will be ready to go," said an Irish government source, who declined to be drawn on further details.

Yesterday, British Secretary of State Peter Hain moved to allay unionist fears insisting that NI's constitutional position would not be changed:

"There's no question of joint authority or anything like that."

However, comments from a British source to the Sunday Business Post highlighted a much more different mindset:

"Whether the threat of joint authority will be enough is anyone’s guess."

So it would appear safe to assume that some measure of Joint Authority is going to be introduced if the DUP continues to refuse to deal and that this will involve a far greater dimension for the Irish government in the North's affairs.

While it is being dressed up in various terms, "Joint Stewardship", "British-Irish partnership arrangements" etc., we all know what it will really involve.

I personally do not want to see Joint Authority used as the ultimate solution for NI's difficulties because, unlike alot of nationalists, I don't view it as a good thing long-term because I think it could lead to northern nationalists finding the arrangement quite suitable, thus ceasing their desire for a United Ireland. The same goes for Irish people in the south who might find it a fair settlement to the Partition problem. To be honest, I'm surprised that more unionists don't advocate Joint Authority as I believe it could safeguard NI's future forever more.

However, despite all that, I like it as a Plan B option and I feel it has alot of benefit in the short-term. While I'm sure it would annoy alot of unionists they have to understand that it's not an ideal situation for anybody and prolonged Direct Rule is most annoying for those of a nationalist persuasion.

Ultimately, this Plan B isn't ideal for the majority of people seeing as the main goal remains reviving the North's assembly, but until the DUP stop their games and get down to business with the other parties, this remains the only option.

It's Paisley's move next. Let's hope he makes the right move.


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