Northern Ireland, when is it ever? Then again, God loves those who try.
Bertie Ahern stated yesterday that the new plan for devolved government would be announced in “around three weeks time”. Considering that this blueprint is being billed as the ‘take it or leave it’ offer, is it possible that the two governments are hoping to have a definite direction made clear by the 14th of April, 8 years on from the historic Good Friday Agreement?
Of course, regardless of the reaction amongst Nationalist and Unionist parties there will still be a long way to go and plenty of obstacles but judging by similar statements before us, Bertie and Blair won’t be waiting for a reply. All Northern politicians hate to sit on a decision; it gives the impression that they haven’t made their minds up or are considering a softening of tone. So if the three week prediction is accurate we will know by the 14th if the decisions of Northern Ireland will be made on a local (MLA) level or a more international (Irish/British government) level.
Times like these in Northern Ireland politics are the most fascinating. All parties are sure to have their minimum demands in their heads, even if they are a little more reasonable than their public ones. All parties surely understand the finality of this offer too and the possible fallout if they give it the thumbs down.
Should the blueprint get rejected it will be interesting to see joint Irish/British rule in action; while neither government is likely to push for big change it is sure to raise eyebrows, questions and complaints. One point of note is that even with the threat of direct Irish influence looming the DUP and UUP have failed to kick up a fuss. Brian Feeney sees this as Unionist acceptance that there is no RoI plot to grab the six counties when everyone’s not looking; it seems to me that the DUP have realised who their real enemy is, and they aren’t members of our cabinet.