Category: Archive

No meltdown of moderate parties

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

“There won’t be a meltdown of any party,” he said on a visit to New York last week. Murphy, who has held the post for just over a year, also denied that last month’s collapse of the much-vaunted deal between republicans and the Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble had created the worst possible context for an election.
“I can remember times since 1997 when we thought the whole process was coming to a halt, and deals were off, with terrible quarrels and rows – now I can’t remember what they were about,” he said. According to Murphy, what was important was the fact that Sinn Fein and the UUP met “at least fifteen times” before the deal fell through, which it did when Trimble rejected the IRA’s decommissioning gesture because, he said, it lacked “transparency.”
“There was an important engagement between the parties,” according to Murphy. Further, he believes that elections will give momentum to the political process, which is a reversal of the previous British government view that an election without a deal would be a disaster.
When asked how the October breakdown happened, and how it was that neither the British nor Irish governments had made sure that when David Trimble said to Gerry Adams that Unionists expected “transparency”, everybody knew what he was talking about, Murphy replied that he couldn’t recall that being an issue and added:
“We weren’t involved in that kind of detail.” Murphy said that for most of the meetings, he was “not in the middle” as he had been in previous encounters between the Sinn Fein leadership and that of the UUP. He believes that the issue in dispute can better be understood as one of confidence, since both governments have demanded that decommissioning be carried out in a way that “would create public confidence.”
“Now what I think possibly happened is what confidence/transparency means to one side, it doesn’t necessarily mean to the other,” he said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen until de Chastelain [chairman of the decommissioning body] made his report.” According to Murphy, when they realized that what the IRA had done would not be enough to satisfy Trimble, they approached the republicans on the confidentiality clause which protects them from having to reveal the details of the weapons put out of use.
“We did out best to try and get them to lift it,” he said. “But it didn’t happen.” After the elections, Murphy said, “We’ll have to return to it.
“What I think is quite good is that we haven’t seen a great barrage of blame exercises on either side over the last week or two,” observed Murphy, which is because, he said, they know they will have to sit down and talk to each other again. He is optimistic because in September and October, Sinn Fein and the UUP were “directly engaged with the issues”. He admits that it was an “unfortunate side-effect” that the Social Democratic and Labor Party felt it was “disengaged” from the process, because it had not been made party to a crucial summit in Downing Street in the week before negotiations broke down. The summit had been restricted to Sinn Fein, the UUP and both governments.
Commented Murphy: “I can understand their feelings, because naturally, they hadn’t done anything wrong. It wasn’t their issue.” However, the secretary of state denied that his government could be accused of rewarding bad behavior.
“I think we can be accused of trying to put it right,” he said.
As to the election’s outcome, he believes that the embarrassing collapse of the deal in October has not undermined Trimble. But he said that the results of the election would be “so close that we just don’t know”. He said he was not dismayed at the prospect of facing a Democratic Unionist Party and anti-agreement majority in the wake of the election.
“The DUP do want devolution,” he said. “I don’t think the DUP will want to walk away from a deal.” However, while Murphy insisted that the Good Friday agreement “was the only show in town,” he qualified that by pointing out that a review of the agreement is due to take place in December. He said that the agreement “can be refined as long as the parties agree to it within the review.”

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