Direct Rule `unsustainable' - Adams

The Sinn Féin president, Mr Gerry Adams, has said the DUP and its leader Ian Paisley cannot be allowed to act as a ``brake'' on the peace process.

However Mr Adams said he respected the DUP's mandate, and argued that there should be a ``short period'' during which the party's position should be explored to see if it had anything positive to offer.

The Irish Prime Minister, An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the leaders of the main pro-agreement parties are meeting in London today to consider the ongoing political stalemate.

Speaking at a media briefing in London ahead of talks in Downing Street today, Mr Adams said: ``The presence of the DUP is symptomatic of what is wrong in the north of Ireland. We have a church leader who is also the head of a political party, and he has extreme views of people of other religions, and he has since my teenage years been against every single effort to bring about any modicum of progress.''

When asked if republicans would agree to a further act of decommissioning, if the two governments decided it was needed to break the deadlock, Mr Adams said: ``Well, if that is what they think then good luck to them. Let them get it, because we have done our best in all of this.''

The Sinn Féin President, who cautioned that a prolonged period of British direct rule would be ``unsustainable'', was asked whether fresh elections might eventually be needed to break the deadlock on power sharing.

Mr Adams said: ``Our template in all of this is the Good Friday Agreement, and the Good Friday Agreement is very very clear. It is that any failure to reach agreement should lead to an election ...

``So we think that is the way the process has to go if you are to be true to the Good Friday Agreement.''

The DUP leader Ian Paisley described a meeting with Mr Blair at Downing Street yesterday as ``extremely useful''. He claimed he wanted to see democracy ``completely and totally'' restored to the North of Ireland following his party's success in last month's Assembly elections.

The ultra-hardliner repeated his determination that the DUP will not share power with Sinn Féin.

``There will never be any conditions when we will sit in government with any body of people, loyalist or nationalist, who have an army, and that army is being used against democracy.''

The Stormont Assembly remains suspended for over a year due to the refusal of unionists to share power with republicans. The DUP deputy leader, Mr Peter Robinson, insisted his party wanted to work with the British government to provide a return to devolved government.

``We're not in the business of planning for failure. We have proposals that we believe can provide a stable and lasting government for Northern Ireland and a peaceful future.''

It has emerged that the party is planning to play a full part in the review of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which will get under way next month. The review could take months and is being seen by the DUP as a renegotiation of the Agreement.

The DUP negotiators have still not revealed the details of its proposed ``alternative'' agreement, claiming that they do not wish to reveal their hand too early.

In Downing Street this afternoon Mr Blair and Mr Ahern, came under strong pressure from the two nationalist parties to push ahead with the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, and commitments made in the British Irish Joint Declaration of last April.

Sinn Féin's Mr Martin McGuinness said last night: ``We will once again be raising with them the outstanding commitments which they have yet to implement, including measures on policing, demilitarisation, criminal justice, human rights and equality.''

He went on: ``We will also make it clear to them that the continued suspension of the political institutions is both unacceptable and untenable.

``In the New Year there will be a clear onus on the two governments and the pro-agreement parties to come together and ensure that the process of change is not allowed to be stalled any further.''

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