Unionists playing the Orange card in north talks




Both the British and Irish Prime Ministers will spend today in Belfast in an attempt to keep the Northern Ireland Assembly alive.

Both men flew there yesterday in order to prevent an all out collapse of the institutions set up after the Good Friday Agreement.

I don't envy them their task. The devolution of policing and justice powers has been delayed by three years because of Unionist intransigence. Though it is a power sharing executive, the DUP led by Peter Robinson have never really accepted the notion of equality.

Robinson wants the rights of the Orange Order to march through Catholic neighborhoods restored. Currently, an independent parades commission rules on each contentious parade, and the verdict is accepted.

While nationalists would give up that right, in order to placate unionism is very hard to see.
Last week a senior member of the Orange Order joined the DUP negotiating team, a clear sign that the Orange card was being played again.

Then the Tory Party in Britain hosted a conference of unionist parties to create a united front on the issue.

The latest opinion poll shows that Tory leader David Cameron would have a bare majority if he were elected in the next election in three months time . The unionist vote then becomes vital again.

It is dirty politics played the old fashioned way but Sinn Fein is having none of it. They are right and hopefully the two leaders, Cowen and Brown can find a way forward. Otherwise time has run out for the Orange Card for once and for all.



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