By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)
Gary Hart, John Kerry’s crony of 40-odd years, is due to arrive in the north today. A real blast from the past, remembered here only by people over 50 for crashing out of the 1988 US presidential race after he was caught canoodling with a model called Donna Rice on a yacht appropriately called Monkey Business.
What’s he doing here? Why now? The answer is that the timing has more to do with the US mid-term elections next week than the Mexican stand-off at Stormont. Nevertheless stand by for a frenzy of fore-lock tugging from local media and some politicians.
What can he contribute to talks about the north’s budget or welfare cuts? Nothing. What credibility has he about the more intricate matters like flags and Orange marches? Do you remember anything he said about the north in the last 30 years apart from musing that Ireland would be much better united by consent?
John Kerry has sent him at this juncture as a gesture to the alleged 40 million Irish-Americans who might vote next week. The forlorn hope is that they might vote Democrat, something Irish-Americans have been doing in fewer numbers in recent years than heretofore.
Any pronunciamento from Hart galvanising the talks is unlikely in the extreme. It’s his presence for the optics of the US election that’s important.
Just as well because there are no talks. Incredibly our clueless proconsul claimed on Monday that the talks have made ‘a positive start’. Oh come on. What talks was she at?
Does she mean the meeting she had with her would-be coalition pals in the DUP because there haven’t been round table plenaries. That sort of silly claim just
brings politics into disrepute. It’s an insult to peoples’ intelligence.
Let’s cut to the chase. The talks are going nowhere because of the deep split in the DUP, a split on public view at the memorial service for Paisley.
It’s not a clean split because the party is really divided in three among the bigots, the religious extremists (and the two aren’t mutually exclusive) and the small group of modernisers.
Robinson can’t manage his party any longer despite his sacking opponents.
He’s a prisoner of the combined forces of the bigots and bible thumpers some of whom don’t care if the assembly collapses tomorrow. A further complication is the fear among some that they could lose their assembly seat to a TUV candidate. After all, Allister’s right-wing ranters took council seats in the DUP heartland of Bannside.
So Sinn Fein are correct when they say what’s happening at Stormont is a sham. The DUP will not make a deal because they can’t agree any of the matters of interest to the public at large. Notice how the ‘urgent matters’ as our proconsul told the UUP conference, have magically become the budget and welfare cuts. There’s you thinking the talks were about Haass’s unfinished business.
Again Sinn Fein are correct in that our proconsul has indulged the DUP by allowing them to hold up any progress until they get what they want about Orange marches. Of course she and her unionist English advisers don’t realise that Twaddell and its vast waste of public money is intimately tied up with the fear of losing the north Belfast seat to Gerry Kelly. The shenanigans at Twaddell are simply an unorthodox method of getting out the unionist vote - keep the pot boiling.
The obvious conclusion from all this is that nothing will happen until the DUP manages to put its house in order but that can’t happen while Robinson remains as a lame-duck leader. The failed coup against him last month is evidence the contest for the succession has already begun.
Now for some reason our proconsul had chosen to deny all this and ignore the repeated and correct points Sinn Fein figures like Martin McGuinness, Conor Murphy, Declan Kearney and others have made, namely that the so-called talks are a cod designed to shore up Peter Robinson and pretend the DUP is a coherent political unit intent on contributing to the future welfare of Norn Irn. Gary Hart is about to waste a month of his life he won’t get back.