2/05/2006

The state of play

I have decided that now might be a good time to take a broad look at where we are sitting and what will happen in the future. We are in political limbo and have been for quite a while. There are quite a few issues coming up very shortly that will have to be addressed.

The main ones are power sharing and policing.



In relation to power sharing, we see that talks are beginning next week between the parties. This is going to prove a somewhat difficult time for the DUP. The DUP are coming out with all the usual rhetoric about not sharing power with republicans until "criminality" has stopped.

At the DUP conference yesterday we saw the Free P's holding a protest outside about the DUP's lack lustre approach to civil partnership.We see the beginnings of the split that will happen within the DUP.

At its core it is nothing more than the political wing of Paisley’s own sectarian bigotry. This is being challenged by the invasion of disaffected Ulster Unionists. They are starting to dilute the fundamentalism that was once copper fastened.

I can see this at Queens on a daily basis. I have been in the company of DUP members while out drinking. These members however are not traditional Dupers, they are former Ulster Unionists.

At some point in the not too distant future these two factions will come into conflict, it will be interesting to see how many will be willing to sacrifice the lure of power to sit out in the political wilderness.

Unionism felt betrayed by the British government when it initiated the disbandment of the UDR/RIR "home battalions", they ain't seen nothing yet.

The DUP have been reduced to the orphan boy Oliver asking “Please sir, can I have some more?” in relation to compensation packages for this sectarian militia.

They are going to get shafted by the Brits and shafted big time in the coming years.

Gone are the days when Unionism could dictate to London.

You also see a few Unionists drooling at the prospect of Gordon Brown replacing Tony Blair at some point in the future. They believe that he will be more sympathetic to their "cause". Gordon Brown is a fiscal conservative who will not allow the "spongers" in the 6 counties to continue to bleed London dry. If it is a choice between ideology and economics Gordon Brown will always follow the latter.

The DUP has a choice to make, join in partnership or risk being left behind. They can't stop change, they can't stop progress but they can be a part of it.

Next we turn to policing, an issue that Republicans will have to grapple with in the very near future.

We have seen in the last week that the Policing board has been given some idea as to what is coming with the introduction of "community policing". The Policing federation are going absolutely nuts and with very good reason. We also know that Tony Blair is coming to the North in the next week or so to make a major announcement on Policing.

We can expect significant changes to policing.

There is no doubt that all the old special branch securocrats will be purged once and for all. There is also no doubt that significant legislation will be placed before Westminster in the next while.

I would expect policing and justice powers to be moved on in the next 2 weeks, possibly before our next Ard Fheis.

I firmly believe that an All-Ireland police force is the best way forward but the party is going to have to address the policing issue one way or the other.

We can no longer leave our base and supports in limbo as to what is happening.All of us in the Republican movement will be part of that debate and we will all have a voice but this issue needs to be dealt with.

Stability needs to be created and the political institutions need to be bedded down so that we can start proper engagement with the Unionist community.

We need proper, honest and open debate about the future of this island.

Republicans only need to change the hearts and minds of 10% or less of Unionism and we will have enough support for a United Ireland. I also support the holding of a border poll ASAP to see what support there is for change.

Republicans also need to remember that we will get votes on the Shankill road before we will get votes on the Malone road.We need to bring our politics to the working class Unionist community who have got nothing from the "Union".

Uncertain times ahead with difficult issues to be dealt with. We need real political progress, lasting and meaningful.

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