Food for Thought — Time

The British Prime Minister has returned from his Caribbean holiday, faced with rumblings amongst his cabinet, the parliamentary party and his party in the country about his policies. also, his attitude to Middle East problems, his ‘war on terrorism’ as well as his intentions in respect of his occupation of the leadership.

He will of course need to take stock of the issue of trying to re-establish devolved government in Northern Ireland. The interregnum of the marching season is about over and the reins or cudgels have to be taken up as early as possible to end the suspension of the Assembly or to roll up the whole caboodle.

Against the enhanced background of security arising from the alleged ‘Islamic plot’ to blow up passenger planes en route between the UK and the USA and the conflict in the Lebanon the DUP and Sinn Féin must be assessing how it might impact upon the Northern Ireland situation.

During the past few months of apparent lull there have been arson attacks around the border town of Newry in County Down and rumours that the disparate dissident Republican groups are engaged in discussions about coming together to pursue active opposition to the peace process. It also appears that Loyalist groups are concerned about ending their internecine strife which has incurred a series of fatal shootings.

For their part Sinn Féin have held a meeting, estimated to have been attended by 15,000 people, to consolidate support around the 25th anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands and other hunger strikers. The meeting took place in Casement Park in West Belfast. That park is owned by the GAA (‘Gaelic Athletic Association’), a 32 county body which, though patriotic and nationalist in its origins in the late 19th century, is officially non political and non sectarian. Consequently Sinn Féin was refused permission to hold their meeting there but went ahead anyway. As a result they have been denied their customary allocation of free tickets to this year’s all Ireland Hurling and Gaelic Football finals in Croke Park, Dublin (they are regarded as pure gold and can fetch up to £1000 on eBay).

Sinn Féin spokespersons have, without hesitation, attributed the arson attacks to dissident Republicans. In condemning the attacks they seem to suggest that legal action to bring the perpetrators to account should be supported.

DUP spokespersons have, as is their wont, said that Sinn Féin will not be accepted by them neither in the Joint Executive nor in government unless they put their words into action by joining the Northern Ireland Police Authority.

In the coming weeks both parties have much food for thought about measures to kick start the political process again. Tony Blair too, in his speech to his party’s annual conference at the end of September will have to pay some attention to the present paralysis in Northern Ireland. If he and his government cannot manage a solution to this problem what sort of image will it present or how will it generate support at the UN for their views on world affairs, in particular the Middle East?

Recent opinion polls have shown a resurgence of support for the Conservative Party and their leader, Cameron, but as yet they have not published a statement on Northern Ireland. They have, however, given the nod to speeches by some Unionist members of the House of Lords

As November the 24th, the date set by the governments of the UK and the Republic of Ireland for the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly, looms ever larger the time for both communities to seriously tackle the problem is NOW.

©: Samuel H. Boyd, Cwmbran, Wales, 29 August 2006.

Samuel H. Boyd