Irish gifts - sales benefit the Newshound

No straight-talking in Northern politics

(by Suzanne Breen, News Letter)

Call me old-fashioned but I like my politicians to be straight talking. It's not a lot to expect our representatives to say what they mean and mean what they say.

But as the local political scene revives after its summer slumber, there seems to be as much guff around as ever. David Trimble is heading back to the Ulster Unionist Council on Saturday. The British government has thrown him another life-line and he is grasping it.

Who seriously believes John Reid would appoint an independent ceasefire monitor if the UUP leader wasn't in deep water? The whole idea of such an appointment is ludicrous and anyone with even half a brain should realise it whether they are unionist or nationalist, loyalist or republican.

We don't need a monitor to tell us the Provisional IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries have breached their ceasefires. It wasn't the Boy Scouts who shot dead Stephen Warnock in Newtownards last Friday and the three Irishmen in Colombia weren't there for sun and study.

But the British government needs something to impress the men and women of the UUC and "an independent ceasefire monitor" sounds just the ticket. So we will have another worthless body set up costing God knows how much.

Its head honcho will undoubtedly prove just as safe a pair of hands for Downing Street as Gen de Chastelain and his decommissioning commission.

It's not just unionists who have phoney political leaders. Sinn Féin has led the nationalist community a merry dance over recent years though it must be said the community seems quite content to follow along.

First of all, it was 'No Return to Stormont'. If the political institutions are suspended again, the party's Assembly members will have to be dragged kicking and screaming from their home on the hill.

The leadership's apparent initial disdain for Stormont was motivated by nationalists' general suspicion of the place. The game of 'we don't really want to go there but we're doing it to be better representatives for you' had to be played.

Sinn Féin has treaded equally carefully on policing. Distrust of the police runs very deep in the nationalist community. When the SDLP took the decision to sign up to the PSNI, Sinn Féin sounded radical and militant.

It wouldn't support a renamed RUC. There were angry statements and noisy protests and any nationalist who disagreed was treated as a traitor to their community. Even when Hugh Orde was appointed Chief Constable, Sinn Féin appeared unmoveable.

When asked in June if he had any plans to meet him, Gerry Adams said absolutely not. There would be no point in any such meeting, he insisted. Three months later, Gerry has started to sing a different tune.

Last weekend, he said while he had no plans to meet the Chief Constable, he wouldn't rule it out in future. There was a potential for change as Orde had a different of policing background, he said.

Did Gerry not know about this background before? Did somebody in Sinn Féin only tell him in the past few days that Orde has worked for the Met and the Stevens Inquiry?

Almost every 'political development' in recent times seems part of a charade. It's all about spinning another line to your community. It's about treating people like fools and, unfortunately, it often seems to work.

As for there being no meeting planned with Orde, don't believe it. I bet there's a date already pencilled in Gerry's little black book.

September 19, 2002

This article appeared in the September 19, 2002 edition of the News Letter.