The House of Commons voted yesterday to suspend allowances to Sinn Fein MPs.
Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy had this to say:
“To all intents and purposes we are not talking to Sinn Fein about political negotiations at the moment other than to say to them that in order to solve this, the ball’s in their court."
“They have to come to us and tell us how on earth can they end criminality.
“If they can do that, then the political process is back on track.”
There’s very little sign that republicans are willing to take the initiative in the way Murphy seems to suggest. As Sinn Fein’s Jim Gibney makes clear in an Irish news article today, (available via Nuzhound), they feel they made a good offer in December, and will insist that any new moves from the IRA come in the context of a comprehensive agreement:
It is understandable, given the events of the last few months, that the significance of what the IRA said in December has been lost to the general public.
However, it is not acceptable that this offer should have been treated so casually by the British and Irish governments.
Nor is it acceptable that the media should play down this development by failing to carry out an analysis of what it means in terms of the physical force tradition in this country.
We are potentially on the cusp of a new set of political circumstances in this country which we have never before experienced.
The leadership of armed republicanism has outlined the circumstances in which it will encourage its activists and supporters to employ purely peaceful strategies this side of British withdrawal.
What we need to hear from the British government and the unionists is that they too are willing to do what is required of them.
We will only find out what the prospects for engagement are after the general election. Unionists at the moment arent even talking about the prospect of a deal, and the Unionists who would have to agree are those led by Ian Paisley.
Yesterday’s poll in the Belfast telegraph, which covered a range of questions related to the current crisis, showed them extending their lead over David Trimble’s Ulster Unionists.