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Strangford Record Attempt

Mark Devenport | 15:04 UK time, Friday, 22 January 2010

Could Jonathan Bell become our shortest serving MLA? The Ards councillor has just been declared as the DUP replacement for Iris Robinson. But at the same time as the Chief Electoral Officer Douglas Bain published his official confirmation of Mr Bell's appointment, the Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams posted an entry on his Leargas blog confirming that so far as republicans are concerned the current phase of negotiations is over.

Mr Adams didn't miss and hit the wall accusing the DUP of ham acting when they complained they were sitting around for talks yesterday (he says he told them the night before the negotiations were over) and of telling a fib when they declared they didn't want to negotiate on a Sunday, but in fact jetted off to London to have secret talks with the Tories.

All of which makes it hard to imagine the talks teams returning to their work in a jovial cooperative mood anytime soon. And on the crunch issue of parades, Mr Adams claims the DUP is playing the orange card adding "sorry folks - it doesn't work that way anymore".

P.S. I've just noticed that Gerry A changed the title of his entry after posting it. To start with it was called "The Game Is Up, But It's Not Over" but then it changed to "There Are No Preconditions". Is this politically significant. If not, why switch to a less catchy title?

P.P.S I am just back from interviewing Peter Robinson and Sir Reg Empey. The DUP leader was exuding an impression of being calm in the face of the Sinn Fein President's blog. Although he told me it would be better for the local parties to sort matters out themselves, I got the impression that he is preparing for governmental intervention.

When questioned about the prospect of Sinn Fein becoming Stormont's largest party, neither unionist leader would rule out their respective parties merging into one bloc. Although the Conservatives claimed there was no discussion of a hung Westminster parliament during the secret talks in England last Sunday, senior DUP sources are talking up the significance a single unionist force could have for the parliamentary arithmetic at Westminster. They are pointing out that 12 pro-Conservative seats equals 24 in a balanced parliament...of course that presumes both North Down and Fermanagh South Tyrone could be counted in such a bloc which is a big assumption. Nevertheless it gives a sense of the kind of calculations now being made.


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  • 1. At 3:43pm on 22 Jan 2010, DisgustedinDERRY wrote:

    I will say this again, the people and the leadership of Britain have spoken on the British people's opinion on fanatical right wing, religious marching in residential areas where they are not wanted. It is unacceptable, it is out of date by about two centuries and this argument is dead in the water. After all, aren't we supposed to be as British as Finchley.

    You can't have it both ways Gregory and it is high time you accept it.

    Embrace your nationalist/republican brothers and sisters and move on in this new century.

    p.s moderators this Gregory fella could be anybody so catch yourself on you fool!!!

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  • 2. At 5:55pm on 22 Jan 2010, bushmill_1608 wrote:

    So the talks came to an end on Wednesday night...did no one think of telling Arlene!

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  • 3. At 7:39pm on 22 Jan 2010, SusieFlood wrote:



    Your interview Robinson with Robinson was a revelation.

    Gone was the arrogance, the strutting and the hubris that were his hallmarks heretofore. In their place, we had a slavering, pleading and broken individual. And what is Robinson's solution to his predicament? In short, he's begging the UUP to join him to defeat Sinn Fein. In current football parlance, he's licking Sir Reg’s boots, he's sucking his socks. *

    If Sir Reg falls for this latest Robinson Oscar-winning performance, the UUP and Unionism may as well end their self-inflicted misery and hand over the white flag to Sinn Fein.

    * Source: Carlos Tevez referring to Gary Neville, following Manchester's City’s defeat of Manchester United after the first leg of the Carling Cup.


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  • 4. At 7:52pm on 22 Jan 2010, noneoftheabove wrote:

    Thank god the "Fascist coalition"(cheers susie!) appears to be dead. what next? who cares? anything is better than listening to confidence, outstanding issues, let me be perfectly clear etc etc

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  • 5. At 00:15am on 23 Jan 2010, DC wrote:

    Here endith the Hitler-Stalin Pact?

    (If so - hurrah!)

    123 Bye-Bye DUP

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  • 6. At 00:30am on 23 Jan 2010, patrick_78 wrote:

    So rumours are rife of a single unionist party. Apart from the infighting and animosity between UUP/DUP, DUP/TUV, DUP/DUP, DUP/anyone, that would make such a banding together seem a remote possibility, just what would be the logistics of this? On ballot day you vote for a party, a party which would have put itself forward for election months earlier. Does this mean that the unionist bloc needs to create a single party now?

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  • 7. At 01:22am on 23 Jan 2010, Gerry47 wrote:

    Bad faith - Are Unionist parties so desparate now that they will even do a deal with EACH OTHER . Pity they hadnt co-operated abit more years ago. They will do anything snatch at a livihood .

    Its the lack of competence at ANYTHING byt ANY of them (MLAs) that bothers me - lets just have Dirct Rule or Joint authority.

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  • 8. At 1:42pm on 23 Jan 2010, DC wrote:

    Reg Empey says the DUP and UUP will form a superficial compact should new elections be called so that SF cannot get the First Minister's post on a party basis.

    If that isn't sectarianism what is?

    The message is getting blurred here re this UCUNF link-up.

    Truth is Empey is too long in the tooth to be a moderniser to pull the whole UCUNF thing off properly - he goes back to Vanguard.

    Secondly Adams and Robinson have been around for too long as well.

    Same old recycled agendas, styles and neurotic approaches.

    Lastly, rather than form bogus party compacts with the DUP at Stormont why not take up the political argument that the DUP made an error of judgement in gifting the largest party the First Minister's post, and ripping out the cross-assembly/community vote on the joint First Minister nominees? Isn't that better politics?

    Empey simply isn't able to keep this thing together or argue that out with the DUP to win - his views are constructed on his memories of the 70s.

    UUP - You've blown it!!!

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  • 9. At 9:46pm on 23 Jan 2010, spinspamspun7 wrote:


    Spiralling up our orifices is not a healthy option !!!

    Different "drop outs" will please some and not others !!!

    Stop the crap and move on !!!

    Special offer, Tesco £4.99 for 18 erse/arse wipe rolls !!!

    The best bargain you lot will ever get !!!

    Move on !!!

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  • 10. At 10:01pm on 23 Jan 2010, Stormontspy wrote:


    Today's meeting of Sinn Fein's Ard Comhairle was nothing more than a waste of time. Why could they not have met in Belfast or better still a text message would have been suffice.

    I thought the most important part of Gerry's speech was his last two lines. He said -
    "What we are about is fixing the problems and returning to the basis upon which these institutions were established – Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Agreement.
    If that is not possible then no self respecting public representative or political party would want to be part of what would be nothing less than a charade."

    Have Sinn Fein now woken up and smelt the coffee? The Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive has been charade since it started up in May 2007.

    Sinn Fein's problem here is themselves. In 2007 they promised their faithful that by signing up to the Police and Courts Service that they would get control of them. At the time Martin McGuinness told the Ard Fheis -
    "We have to boss policing. We are the bosses. We are the people with the political authority. I'll tell you what I want the PSNI to do. I want the police to watch MI5, to spy on MI5 and to arrest MI5 when they break the law."

    Sinn Fein has 2 options -
    1. Go to Peter Robinson and the Governments and get a date for Policing and Justice by the end of the week or
    2. Do what they promised before Christmas - Pull the structures down. The fact that Martin McGuinness and others said in December there would be "serious consequences" and to date there hasn't been signals that they have lost their bottle and want someone else to do it.....


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  • 11. At 10:06pm on 23 Jan 2010, spinspamspun7 wrote:

    RTE reporting that DUP want to join with the UUP !!!

    Possible that 60% could move !
    Where would the word "democratic" go ???
    Misnamed in this coalition !!!

    Maybe not a bad move,could isolate the DUP 40% to
    join up with the ""messiah" Alister !!!

    Maybe a positive,allow Alister to have his say/grunt/groan ,and
    keep the "english" defence league off our streets !!!

    Time to move on or retreat back ???

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  • 12. At 10:34pm on 23 Jan 2010, spinspamspun7 wrote:

    Mo Molam used to slam her wig on the table !!!

    Wish the FM/DFM could have their addled brains slammed on the table and laid bare,agree that there are past conflicts, but the future is yonder !!!

    Mark, if the greeting/moaning/wonderful/controlling refusenicks would
    stumble forward and agree P+J, you'll end up with a 37.5hr week !!!

    Think of the future !!! Holidays less,less stress and less bonus !!!

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  • 13. At 10:39pm on 23 Jan 2010, DisgustedinDERRY wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 14. At 10:59pm on 23 Jan 2010, Stormontspy wrote:

    Mark and fellow bloggers,

    This possible link up of the DUP and UUP should be treated will caution. I wonder who will the king rat be, and how will the leadership structure be worked out. In the past 2 months the DUP have been very bitter to the UUP on a number of occasions.

    Ian Paisley Junior on the 23rd December 2009 said -
    "The UUP leader needs to listen to the voices inside his own party calling for co-operation and stop taking his orders from the Tories."

    Jeffrey Donaldson on the 18th December 2009 said -
    "Does UCUNF no longer consider the only UUP MP to be a Unionist?"

    Nigel Dodds on the 9th December 2009 said -
    "The Ulster Unionists sole guiding principle on this issue is the pursuit of cheap headlines and point-scoring. Senior UUP members like Basil McCrea are on the record of the Northern Ireland Assembly as supporting an SDLP Justice Minister. The UUP want the ministry allocated using D'Hondt. That would open the door to a nationalist holding the post.
    The Unionist community who well remember the UUP had agreed to a Sinn Fein minister by mid 2005 will be appalled to see them arguing for a nationalist minister now. This latest position shows just why the UUP cannot be trusted."

    Nigel Dodds in an article in the Newsletter on 5th December 2009 wrote -
    "Ten years ago the Ulster Unionist Party agreed to nominate members to serve on the Northern Ireland Executive. In so doing, they abandoned their ‘No Guns, No Government’ pledge and let Sinn Fein in without an ounce of Semtex, a single gun or one bullet handed over. This characteristic flip-flop from the UUP ushered in a period of devolution characterised by stop-start, up-down government."

    "As we all know too well this was not the only poor negotiating and bad decision-making of Trimble and Empey. They agreed to the devolution of policing and justice powers by mid-2005 with Sinn Fein holding the justice ministry. Only when the pro-Union voters stepped in and entrusted the DUP with the mantle of leadership was their Gerry Kelly-for-Justice Minister plan halted."

    "Since 2003, the DUP has set about reversing the follies of the Trimble/Empey-era. Our first task was to ensure that government in this Province was built on the firm foundation of support for the police and the rule of law. The DUP learned the lessons of Trimble and Empey’s failures and were determined not to repeat them."

    "The DUP knows the present system is far from perfect but it is an improvement on what the UUP delivered. If Unionism stays united around DUP leadership we can deliver more progress."

    Finally on the 30th November 2009 Peter Weir stated -
    "The UCUNF underlings wheeled out at the weekend to attack the DUP over the rumours that Reg Empey will be receiving a peerage by any incoming Tory administration are notable only by their absence of a denial. More and more UUP grassroots members and at least one Tory peer have indicated to the DUP that Reg Empey will be receiving a peerage. Does this explain UCUNF’s refusal to come to an agreement with fellow-Unionists over Fermanagh and South Tyrone and South Belfast?"

    If these two parties do merge I wonder how long it will last. With the comments above I suspect it will not be long...


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  • 15. At 10:59pm on 23 Jan 2010, spinspamspun7 wrote:

    Can the likes of you and me ever
    come to an agreement over parades ???
    I can hope ! Time to move on !!!

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  • 16. At 11:10pm on 23 Jan 2010, Stormontspy wrote:


    I think DisgustedinDERRY just disagrees with you and me for the sake of an argument. If you said that all parades be banned he would be in favour!! He is probably off wondering how to reply to previous posts of mine!!


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  • 17. At 11:36pm on 23 Jan 2010, DisgustedinDERRY wrote:

    #15 spinspamspun7

    What are your views on Wotton Basste and Islam4UK's plan to hold a march there?

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  • 18. At 00:04am on 24 Jan 2010, DisgustedinDERRY wrote:

    What I mean is, if the Orange Order have a right to march the King's highway, should Islam4UK be allowed to march in Wotton Basset?

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  • 19. At 12:41pm on 24 Jan 2010, DisgustedinDERRY wrote:

    No opinion then spinspamspun7? There's a first!

    How would you interpret the views of the British people, regarding political marching by right wing religious organisations, in places where they are NOT WANTED, taken in this poll?

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  • 20. At 1:13pm on 24 Jan 2010, thelocalboy wrote:

    What are th chances of the SDLP and Sinn Fein merging or joining in some way?
    Although they would not have the same support as ther UUP and DUP together, is there a chance of this happening?

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  • 21. At 8:24pm on 24 Jan 2010, Luke91 wrote:

    Hi Mark, perhaps you could answer a question for me. We have been hearing recently that the St Andrews Agreement meant that the FM and DFM now came from the largest parties, with the FM from the largest Unionist party and the DFM from the largest Nationalist party as stands. This would obviously mean that if SF became the largest party overall they would take the FM post and the DUP (presuming they were the second largest party) would take the DFM post.

    However when reading the St Andrews Agreement I found that it said this:
    Article 8 Section 4
    The nominating officer of the largest political party of the largest
    political designation shall nominate a member of the Assembly to be
    the First Minister.

    Does this therefore mean that if McGuinness were to become FM he would need the nationalist parties combined to take more seats than the unionists? If this is the case then is it not unlikely that SF will be able to do so, thus making it unwise for them to force an election?

    Hopefully you can answer this for me.

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  • 22. At 11:02pm on 24 Jan 2010, DC wrote:

    Interesting Luke.

    But, I wonder what would happen if SF were to elect themselves Unionist for the sheer political opportunism of it, to become FM.

    Having the SDLP as the only nationalist party in sync with SF on the other side might bring change through for an electoral term!

    Eat your heart out!

    Of course I haven't in any way studied the maths and vetoes and seats behind all of this nor is such sheer opportunism likely to ever happen, but as a centrist this sort of gaming the system appeals to me (messing with the structures to make a mockery of it all).

    It would obviously have be done on a complete secrecy basis and to let the Unionists nominate in first, ah the shambles of it all. It'll never happen under such conservative nationalist parties, but would be great fun to watch.

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  • 23. At 08:22am on 25 Jan 2010, DisgustedinDERRY wrote:

    A message to the DUP:

    Orange Marches cause instability, and give the community a lack of confidence.

    Jobs cause stability and community confidence.

    Grow up or move over it's the 21st century not the 17th.

    A message to the UUP:

    Orange Marches cause instability, and give the community a lack of confidence.

    Jobs cause stability and community confidence.

    Grow up or move over it's the 21st century not the 17th.

    A message to the English Conservatives:

    Orange Marches cause instability, and give the community a lack of confidence.

    Jobs cause stability and community confidence.

    Grow up or move over it's the 21st century not the 17th.

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  • 24. At 12:08pm on 25 Jan 2010, Stormontspy wrote:


    End the tribal politics.


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  • 25. At 1:06pm on 25 Jan 2010, DisgustedinDERRY wrote:


    I think you should direct that comment at the unionist canvasser's who knock on your door looking for votes.

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  • 26. At 1:18pm on 25 Jan 2010, Stormontspy wrote:


    I think by now the politicians in my area know not to come to my door as they don't want me to give them a piece of my mind!!


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  • 27. At 1:29pm on 25 Jan 2010, patrick_78 wrote:

    Haha nice one Stormontspy. On that note, woe betide the politician coming to Susie's door ;)

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  • 28. At 1:36pm on 25 Jan 2010, Stormontspy wrote:


    I would pay to see that!!


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  • 29. At 5:46pm on 25 Jan 2010, SusieFlood wrote:


    They used to, now they daren't.



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