Leading Article: Power-sharing, not decomissioning, will decide Ulster's future

WHEN THE political history of this week is written, it will not be Cherie's baby or Ken's candidacy that is remembered; rather, at least if the members of the Ulster Unionist Council vote yes next week, historians will be praising the successful completion of Senator George Mitchell's review of the Good Friday Agreement. Yesterday, David Trimble spoke out directly in favour of the compromise on decommissioning which he will be recommending to his party, saying that he was confident that "we have here the mechanism that will achieve that". We are already getting used to hearing such positive expressions of trust in the good faith of the IRA from Mr Trimble, but the importance of this development cannot be overstated. This is FW de Klerk coming to trust Nelson Mandela, it's Ronald Reagan working on disarmament with Mikhail Gorbachev.

Senator Mitchell's contribution to this process is a quintessential example of the art of deal-making, something Washington politicians, with their experience of continual legislative gridlock, must get plenty of chances to practice. Looking forward, beyond the establishment of a power-sharing executive at Stormont, to its actual workings, we can see that Northern Ireland's politicians, too, will have to get used to working fruitfully with their sworn opponents. The first action of the Assembly, which could have power transferred to it within days of the Unionists voting to accept the Mitchell deal, will be to appoint members of the executive. There will be ministers from the Unionists, from the SDLP, from Sinn Fein, and even two from Ian Paisley's DUP sharing out portfolios among themselves.

The day power-sharing commences will also see the appointment of an "interlocutor" from the IRA to liaise with Canadian General John de Chastelain's commission on disarmament. Opponents of the Mitchell deal point out that as Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein is already a representative of the republican movement to that commission, and no weapons have yet been handed over, there is no guarantee that IRA disarmament will follow this new appointment. These critics fear that once the executive has got underway, and the cross- border bodies have been staffed and begun operation, it is unlikely that a reluctance of the IRA to hand over its guns will lead to the promised suspension of the Assembly.

On the other hand, the fuss that would accompany the complete failure to hand in any weapons at all would deprive Sinn Fein of credibility, and the even worse situation of the IRA setting off a bomb somewhere would lead to the almost certain eviction of its political representatives from the executive. A beneficial consequence of giving Sinn Fein a place in the government of Northern Ireland would be to put paid forever to the strategy of "the ballot box in one hand and the Armalite in the other".

Although decommissioning has come to be a totem for Unionists of the republican commitment to peace and democratic politics, this is partly due to there not having been any other available measurement. Once Sinn Fein ministers begin to take responsibility for, say, housing or education or industry in Northern Ireland, there will be new issues to absorb the attention of the politically engaged. And if, against the obvious impediments, Mr Trimble and Mr Adams continue to work in the spirit of trust they seem to have established, their example could herald a welcome new age in Ulster.

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own