24th November - D Day
Today was the day for the governments to attempt to wave their magic wand and produce their plan to restore a power sharing executive in the north. As had been widely reported previous to the statement, the governemnts are to recall the assembly for a number of weeks with the primary aim of electing a powersharing executive including all the major parties. The assmebly is to meet for 6 weeks in March and then break for the Summer. A deadline of 24th November has been set by which date an executive must be up and running otherwise the assembly will be shut down by the governments and we will move to a "Plan B" which will involve "British-Irish partnership."
As I've made clear in recent posts, I favour a return to a power executive although I wouldn't have too many complaints about a meaningful joint authority government for the north. What I do oppose however is a DUP talking shop of an assembly where the DUP will attempt to exercise power and influence in an exclusive manner. I watched Hearts and Minds earlier and noticed an unneccesarily high level of bickering between the SDLP's Mark Durkan and Sinn Féin's martin McGuinness. For some unknown reason Mark seems determined to hark back to the Comprehensive Agreement of 2004 and claims that Sinn Féin have been complicit in allowing a shadow assembly to come onto the agenda. Martin McGuinness rightly stated that SF are opposed to a shadow assembly and will not take part in such a set-up.
I understand the concerns as the governments have said that the reformed assembly could consider other matters and that if there was cross-community support that Direct Rule Ministers would take the views of the assembly into account. This is not an avenue down which it would be advisable to go. The assembly needs to have much much more than advisory powers, it needs to be making decision for the good of all the people in the north, not merely giving MPs from London its opinion which could easily be ignored. Both Sinn Féin and the SDLP oppose a shadow assembly and therefore, rather than bickering and throwing blame about in front of Noel Thompson, the parties should get together and come to a joint agreement that when the assembly is recalled, neither party will take part in any business other than the setting up of the power sharing executive as envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement. This will scupper the chances of a DUP-led talking shop and would be an excellent example of the parties working together to defend the Good Friday Agreement.