Brokenshire to blame for latest talks failure

Posted By: July 05, 2017

IRISH CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING
Distributed by Irish National Caucus
“Any fool knows the DUP won’t, can’t make a deal accepting equality and rights as the basis for returning to Stormont in the run-up to the Twelfth [of July].”



Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Only our current proconsul [Secretary of State] professes to believe Sinn Féin and the DUP can seal a deal within days.

Even his equally colorless Labour opposite number whose name you might not know doesn’t believe there can be a deal.

Our proconsul on Monday failed to give a reason why he purports to believe what he says. It’s one of his mantras, and like the Bellman in The Hunting of the Snark,  he seems to believe, ‘what I tell you three times is true.’ Unfortunately, repeating something doesn’t make it true. A bit like his mentor’s ‘strong and stable’, though at least she had the wit to drop that one sharpish.

Any fool knows the DUP won’t can’t make a deal accepting equality and rights as the basis for returning to Stormont in the run-up to the Twelfth [ of July]. The only sensible action was to suspend talks and return with a different format in September. A different format is required because the plain fact is that our proconsul is the man responsible for the failure of the talks.

In January he compromised his own position by an act of singular political ineptitude, namely snuggling up to the posterior of the raving right-wing of his own party by repeating in the Sunday Telegraph the discredited claim that there is a witch hunt against former members of the British army. It was a unique act of political stupidity by a northern secretary.

Other proconsuls have made mistakes, have taken wrong decisions or have had to take offensively difficult decisions. Sir Patrick Mayhew had to refuse to prosecute RUC men to the outrage of the Irish government, citing, wait for it, ‘national security’. He made an error of judgment in 1995 by producing the so-called ‘Washington Three’ requirements for decommissioning and talks with Sinn Féin but our present guy produced ‘alternative facts’ for party political reasons. Can anyone think of another example?

The lord chief justice, the DPP and various other panjandrums issued statements providing the figures to contradict the proconsul’s claims. After all, he had given credibility to tabloid nonsense which undermined the integrity of the judiciary and justice system. Did he do the honorable thing and resign, apologize, even accept he was wrong? Nope. Repeated the tabloid tosh.

From then on his chances of producing a deal were zero. Sinn Féin with the SDLP attached to their coat tails refused to accept him as an honest broker and they were right. Even the Alliance party were dissatisfied with him. Is that a first, the Alliance party objecting to a proconsul’s bona fides? Some achievement.

As a result, he was compelled to divide the talks into two sections, one chaired by the head of the Northern Ireland civil service who had to postpone his retirement for the purpose. So there were the devolved matters and the reserved matters sections of the talks because, and this had never happened before, the northern secretary was regarded as a player. Now how was that going to work? Suppose the long-suffering civil servant had managed to achieve some agreement. He would have to have it ratified by the proconsul otherwise what’s the point of having a proconsul? In short, the talks couldn’t work and that’s the proconsul’s fault. He’s the responsible minister.

Aside from the flawed format, the talks proceeded in a desultory fashion, lacking direction and drive. Are you surprised? Does this proconsul project an image of drive, dynamism, imagination, vision? So far it has not occurred to him that he might be politically incapable of producing a successful outcome for many reasons but there is above all the unique fix he got himself into as the first proconsul not to be accepted as an honest broker. He refuses to accept that publicly but does in fact because he has had to recuse himself from elements of the negotiations and substitute the head of the civil service.

It’s astonishing that the parties accept that state of affairs. However, on the bright side, the fact that they do is an indication that both Sinn Féin and the DUP want to set up a new executive. Unfortunately for both this B