Irish Republican News · January 6, 2006
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Parties gear up for talks
Parties gear up for talks

All parties and the Dublin and London governments have a public duty to work together in 2006 to restore power to the North’s political institutions, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has said.

Speaking at a meeting of the party’s Ard Chomhairle (National Executive) in Dublin this morning, Adams said he believed that 2006 would be a vital year in the peace process.

“The responsibilities of all of the political parties and the two governments are clear,” he said. “There needs to a genuine effort to end the stalemate and to restore the power sharing government and all-Ireland political institutions voted for by the people of Ireland.

“The Irish and British governments have stated that it is their intention to make a concerted effort to revive the peace process, beginning in the coming weeks. Sinn Fein welcomes any genuine attempt to do this and in our ongoing contacts with the two governments we have made it clear that we will play a positive role.

“Republicans have acted. Now the two governments need to take action.

“The Good Friday Agreement cannot be kept in mothballs indefinitely and we have told both governments that the Assembly, in its current form, is not viable. The political vacuum cannot continue.

“Following the IRA initiatives of last year there is growing expectation among the public that the process will move forward. There needs to be progress by the summer.”

The Sinn Fein President praised the decision of the IRA to end its activities last July and said the organisation had addressed the concerns outlined by unionist leaders.

He added: “As the months have passed it is easy to lose sight of the enormity of what took place and the opportunity that it has opened up.

“But I would ask people to look to 2006 with hope and confidence that progress can be made.

“Now is the time for those in political leadership to do our job.”

The recent exposure of Denis Donaldson -- Sinn Fein’s head of administration at the Belfast Assembly -- as a British spy, and the continuing refusal of Ian Paisley’s hardline DUP to engage in talks with Sinn Fein, have dented hopes of an early breakthrough.

Three years on from the collapse of the North’s powersharing administration over false allegations that Donaldson was actually spying for the IRA, the Assembly remains suspended and British government ministers continue to run the various government departments.

Mr Adams said the time for excuses was over and, in a reference to the Donaldson affair, condemned those working against progress.

He said: “There needs to be a collective effort made to see the political institutions up and running and the other outstanding aspects of the Agreement implemented.

“And as part of this we need to see an immediate end to the activities of those elements in Britain’s Intelligence Agencies who are working day and night to prevent progress.”

‘PLAN A’ AGAIN

Following the IRA’s pledge to disarm, it is widely expected that the 26-County and British Governments will bring forward a plan in early 2006 to see the restoration of powersharing institutions in the North.

A new report by the IMC government agency, due out this month, is expected to boost the talks process by confirming the IRA’s decision to cease its activities. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and 26-County Taoiseach Bertie Ahern are to use the ‘clean bill of health’ to make a big push to end direct London rule.

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said he was in no doubt that “big decisions” lie ahead.

“There are huge problems to be dealt with across the economy and in the delivery of public services and it is time that the era of day release Direct Rule Ministers is brought to an end.

“It is time for both the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister to grasp the momentum created by the IRA ending its armed campaign and decommissioning its weapons during 2005.

“It’s time to lift the suspension and bring back the political institutions,” he concluded.

NO ‘PLAN B’

Irish foreign minister Dermot Ahern said that agreement on restoring the North’s political institutions must be achieved this year.

Mr Ahern also reiterated his government’s call for increased North-South business co-operation and he highlighted the 1998 Good Friday Agreement as the only basis for making progress.

Warning about the impact of electoral battles expected in Britain and Ireland by next year, Mr Ahern described this year as “the window of opportunity” for restoring devolution.

Insisting that “there is no Plan B”, Mr Ahern called for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

He joined Sinn Fein in calling for unionist politicians to give “positive leadership” to their communities.

“It makes no economic sense that a small island of five and a half million people be treated as two separate entities in a globalised economy, because competitiveness is the key issue.

“Basically politicians have to work with the tools that are available to them, and with the Good Friday Agreement the people said that there should be direct rule in Northern Ireland where the Northern Ireland politicians should be the authors of their own destiny, not politicians coming across for a couple of days from the UK.

“The Agreement sets the template for the future political landscape in Northern Ireland.

“We can only proceed on that basis,” Mr Ahern said.

SALARIES THREAT

However, the DUP responded by insisting power-sharing with Sinn Fein was not on the cards.

The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson complained of a “lack of trust in the political process”. He said his party would put a series of proposals to the British government on the restoration of devolution, which would exclude Sinn Fein from government.

He said power-sharing would require a “complete end” to “IRA crime, violence and activity”. He added that this “has to be proven over a period of time.”

Asked how long this period of time should be, Mr Donaldson replied: “We’ll know it when we see it.”

British Direct Ruler Peter Hain said he may halt salaries and allowances if there is no movement.

Last month, Mr Hain said real movement was needed if assembly elections due in 2007 “are to have any meaning”. In an interview for BBC Radio today, he said he may go even further.

Mr Hain said assembly members were getting “#32,000 salaries... to do a job which they won’t take responsibility for doing”.

“I’m not giving a particular month, but I am saying that if we haven’t seen progress by the summer, the first decision I’m going to have to make is over continued payment of salaries and also allowances,” he said.

© 2006 Irish Republican News