Thursday, January 04, 2007

Dreary Spires

It says something that amid all the reasons for Tony Blair not to be on extended holidays at Bee Gee Robin Gibb's place in Miami -- the disarray in Iraq and at the White House, the jostling for position in his party back home -- the one thing that actually forced him to shorten his trip was the latest crisis in the Irish peace process.

For what it's worth, our view of the crisis is that Sinn Fein cut things too fine -- needing to approve support for policing late enough so as not to alienate its base with demands for on-the-ground cooperation with the police, but early enough to keep the March election timetable on track. Too many dissenters were smoked out even by the general commitment to support policing, and the whole timetable is now in trouble.

It also brings to the surface a latent divergence between the Northern and "Dublin" wings of the party, with the latter surely more willing to swallow support for police in Northern Ireland as the price of improving their prospects as a coalition partner following the Republic's election in a few months.

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