What with today being the big day and all, wouldn't you know that Tony Blair was on the phone half the night before, turning the screws on Ian Paisley's geriatric thumbs. There was the scent of a political stand-off in the air, a fear that today's meeting at Stormont could fail and the appointment of First Minister and Deputy First Minister would never come to pass. Should that happen, it would the dissolution of the Assembly and then off to plan B.
It's words that are at issue, those little constructions of letters that cause so very much difficulty in certain circles. Somehow or other, the parties involved have to come up with a way to say that they are entering into a power-sharing agreement, without actually saying that they are entering into a power-sharing agreement. All for the supporters back home, you see, those hard-liners who are adamantly opposed to sharing power with anyone Irish or Catholic or whatever might be different from a Free Presbyterian.
The Shinners have agreed to accept policing, but only after they've gotten into power and can do something to change the force as it currently exists. The loyalists have been howling that there'll be no power-sharing if the Shinners don't accept the PSNI as is and shown, right now, and therein lies an insurmountable roadblock.
Never fear, for the governments of Britain and Ireland are working behind the scenes, making deals and possibly making threats. By this morning, it was presumed that Paisley would accept the nomination to be First Minister and things would proceed from there, leading to a new Stormont Assembly and home rule by next March.
Pity that Tony Blair did not hold a conference call with members of the DUP. With everything in place, and the politicians in their Stormont chairs, one of their storied members put an end to the whole affair.
Just this morning, loyalist thug and convicted killer Michael Stone made a grand gesture of refusal to accept change. Through the revolving door he went, into a room packed with journalists waiting to interview the Assembly members, and he tossed what he said was a bomb. 'No surrender,' he is said to have shouted, true loyalist to the core.
Needless to say, he was wrestled to the ground, at which time an astute reporter noticed that he had a gun on him, although no one could say if it was a real weapon or a toy. Stone is now in custody, but he's been jailed before for murdering some IRA supporters at a funeral. The bag, with its smoke and sparks, was being examined by explosives experts when last seen, and the building was of course evacuated. That put an end to the meeting of the day, and there'll be no agreement or nomination or anything.
The DUP has pulled off another stall, getting their way without having to actually negate anything. This stunt by Michael Stone is good for a week at least, and then another loyalist could volunteer for some similar duty, and the next thing you know it's Christmas and the politicians have to take a break for the holidays. Why, this sort of thing could string the process along for months, and nothing will get done and Plan B won't be implemented because the DUP hasn't actually not done what they were supposed to do.
All the talk of positive progress coming out of St. Andrews, the rushed legislation out of Westminster, and it comes down to one convicted murderer and a bag of smoke. The loyalists have been in power since the Ulster Plantation, the boundary of the north of Ireland was gerrymandered to ensure a loyalist majority, and now people genuinely expect them to cede some of their power to their sworn enemies? And the politicians honestly believe that this is going to happen through diplomacy? If they could only find the right words, is that it?