Govts talk tough on process
Sinn Féin will be forced to give its backing to the PSNI police when powers for policing and justice are devolved from London to Belfast, British Direct Ruler Peter Hain has claimed.
Following talks with 26-County foreign minister Dermot Ahern, Mr Hain insisted that there was no flexibility in the November 24 deadline. The two governments have said the parties in the North must agree to share local power in the North by then or face “partnership government” imposed jointly by Dublin and London.
“There is no flexibility on the November deadline. Come midnight on the 24th, assembly members’ salaries will go on ice and benefits will be stopped. We won’t blink. Northern Ireland politics has been about procrastination year upon year. We cannot continue like that,” he said.
Mr Hain said there was no reason why any party would not proceed with the restoration of the Assembly in the wake of the IMC report last week.
“The IMC report is a milestone report. There has been momentous change and a substantial leap in eliminating criminality by the IRA. If the November 24th deadline is not adhered to, it will be a great opportunity missed. There is no reason for anyone not to engage seriously in producing a power sharing Executive,” he added.
Mr Hain said legislation to devolve policing and justice powers should be passed by the end of the summer.
“That will leave plenty of time for Sinn Féin to move, as it has promised to do on policing, and everyone will expect them to,” he said.
Mr Ahern said conversations with the DUP delegation at the recent meeting of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body in Killarney in County Kerry had led him to the belief that the DUP was “up” for a deal.
That delegation however, did not include Ian Paisley. Mr Ahern said he “firmly believed” that the DUP was willing to share power with Sinn Féin.
“I believe that they are prepared to do a deal if the conditions are right,” he said.
However, Mr Ahern said the two governments would not think twice about going over the heads of the North’s politicians come November if the Assembly fails to elect a power-sharing Executive.
TALKING TOUGH OR TALKING SHOP?
Meanwhile, the order of business for the ‘transitional’ Assembly has failed to inspire republicans.
Mr Hain has proposed the first day of business, May 15, should be used for registration by the assembly members and that the next day the business community address members followed by a debate.
Mr Hain’s plan for the following week is that there should be a visit to the assembly by Scotland’s First Minister Jack McConnell and then the next day (May 23) an attempt be made to elect a First Minister and Deputy First Minister.
Mr Murphy said that parties were not very enthusiastic about Mr Hain’s proposals.
Mr Murphy said that for example they were able to meet business leaders at any time.
Regarding the plan for a visit of the Scottish First Minister Mr Murphy indicated there was little enthusiasm apart from the DUP.
Mr Murphy stressed that the business in hand should be in getting the political institutions up and properly working.
“We are not interested in a talking shop or in creating an impression that something is happening when it is not happening,” he said.
He warned unionists that there will no return to the dark days of unionist domination in the drive to see political institutions re-established in the time ahead.
“Sinn Féin are absolutely committed to the restoration of the Assembly, Executive and all-Ireland Ministerial Council,” he said. “No one wants to see a feeble talking shop except possibly the DUP.
“The objective must be to take Executive decision making away from unaccountable British direct rule ministers who are driven by a Whitehall agenda. People want to see local accountable ministers taking responsibility for the important decisions affecting all of our futures.
“Unionists should be under no illusions. Nationalists will not stand for any backdoor attempt to establish anything that falls well short of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, particularly where the important checks and balances underpinned by the power-sharing Executive are ignored.
“No-one wants a return of failed political entities like the political forums of the past that were dominated by unionists. This is why Sinn Féin is only interested in progress that has the return of the Executive at its heart. There is no place for a corporate or shadow Assembly or committees dominated by unionists.
“This is at the nub of the problem for unionism. They refuse to acknowledge that nationalists have little or no trust in the approach of unionists to power-sharing and even less faith in the ability of unionists, particularly from the DUP, to reject the political domination and discrimination of the past. That is a challenge which they must overcome.”