By Brian Feeney (for the Irish News)
You could be forgiven for thinking that the only issue in Irish politics at present is whether Sinn Féin ‘will sign up to policing’.
Even the phrase is biased. It accepts the unionist spin on the issue and implies that Sinn Féin is opposed to policing, that some day the party will experience a Damascene conversion and support policing, law and order and the criminal justice system.
Accepting that unionist spin assumes automatically that any system of law and order, policing and criminal justice the British administration in the north establishes is ideal and ought to deserve the immediate and unquestioning support of republicans.
Of course when unionists don’t like policing or the way law and order is administered they riot, shoot at the police or try to bring the north to a standstill, as one UUP spokesman threatened a few years ago over Drumcree. That’s okay, you see, because unionists still believe they own the north.
That’s an attitude which raises the other issues that hardly anyone mentions.
Poor Dermot Ahern in Cork on Sunday tried to remind people that a deal requires two moves, not one. “One, a move on power sharing by the DUP. Two, support for policing by Sinn Féin.”
We all know, and are reminded daily, that SF haven’t got support for the PSNI through an ard fheis yet. What virtually no-one points out is that no-one in the DUP has expressed support for power sharing and no-one says when they’re going to do so.
Oh yes, there’s a lot of ‘If Sinn Féin do this and Sinn Féin do that and then maybe some day in a shimmering Shangri-La we will consider and blah blah’.
So register that - no-one in the DUP supports sharing power as a principle and no-one asks them when they’re going to.
In fact the DUP officially opposes sharing power in principle.
The party leadership is engaged in a do-or-die struggle with political dinosaurs in their membership who because of a toxic mixture of religious and politico-ethnic hatreds can’t contemplate sharing power with any nationalist or Catholic, never mind Sinn Féin.
However, being the complete opposite of its name the DUP will railroad this 180-degree turn through regardless of the dinosaurs.
What about the other items of the ministerial pledge which the DUP remain silent about?
‘To participate fully in the Executive Committee, the North-South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council; to observe the joint nature of the offices of first and deputy first minister’.
You don’t hear too much about them, do you?
This is the party which refused to sit in the executive because they oppose the Good Friday Agreement - and still do - and would not engage in ‘north-southery’ as they derisively call it.
Remember, only a fortnight ago Gregory Campbell suffered an acute attack of foot-in-mouth disease on this very issue.
Won’t it be delightful to hear that oul curmudgeon Paisley actually saying those words about all-Ireland bodies? Won’t it be amazing to hear him accepting that Martin McGuinness is his equal in office. Oh joy. What a turnaround.
Talk about selling the pass.
Now perhaps you know why none of this is ever mentioned. Those members of the DUP who can read would be likely to have a collective apoplectic fit if they saw what their leader is pledging to do - nothing less than the opposite of everything he has ever proclaimed anathema.
Smash Sinn Féin. Remember the stunt with sledge-hammers? No Dublin interference. Remember the ‘Nevaar Nevaar Nevaar Nevaar’ bellow at the city hall? No sharing power.
Remember the previous pledge of only true democracy in the north, by which he meant majority rule?
At present the DUP is relying on the fact that virtually no-one in the party will read the bill putting the inter-governmental St Andrews agreement into law. If they did they would see that almost the only change is that the DUP assembly members do not have to vote for a Sinn Féin deputy first minister.
As for all the other matters the DUP opposed in the GFA, the new arrangements compel them to comply.
They must sit and act with SF and they must sit on the all-Ireland bodies.