Irish Republican News · January 7, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Parties set out stalls for GFA review

As government officials and the parties prepare for the review of the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Féin has warned that the DUP must be shown it is not going to get its way in trying to destroy the accord.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said the DUP were not prepared to engage properly with this process.

``From everything the DUP have said since the election it is quite clear they are not prepared to engage properly and the governments have to get on with the business of the review and of implementing the commitments they made in the joint declaration and in conversations to us.

``This is the way to show the DUP and rejectionists like Jeffrey Donaldson that they are not going to get their way.''

Ulster Unionist leader Trimble today called for the review of the Good Friday Agreement to focus on allegations of continuing IRA activity. He said it would be quite inappropriate to conduct the ``nuts and bolts'' review while ignoring the ``real problem''.

Mr Trimble proposed that instead of the planned review of the Agreement there should be a review of paramilitarism along the lines of that carried out by former US Senator George Mitchell four years ago, which led to a hotly-contested period of exclusion for Sinn Féin.

Presenting its case, the small Alliance party has called for changes to the voting system at the Assembly. It wants to replace the current system requiring simultaneous majorities among designated unionists and nationalists with a simpler weighted majority system.

The Alliance party is non-aligned, so its six Assembly votes are currently treated differently -- unequally, they claim -- to those of the nationalist and unionist parties.

The Alliance also proposed that power-sharing executive at Stormont should be formed by negotiation between parties and ratified by a weighted majority vote; the Office of First and Deputy First Minister should be streamlined, with some of its functions removed; and that the Assembly should be allowed to negate any ministerial decision, also through a weighted majority vote.


Meanwhile, UUP defector Jeffrey Donaldson has rejected demands that he face re-election following his switch to Ian Paisley's rival DUP.

Yesterday, UUP leader David Trimble challenged Mr Donaldson to resign his parliamentary seat and face the electorate. He said it was up to Mr Donaldson to decide whether he would do the ``honourable thing'' by resigning his seat in the House of Commons and facing the voters as a DUP candidate.

Speaking in a BBC radio interview, Mr Trimble said his party had been inundated with phone calls from people angry that the votes they had cast in November's assembly elections for the UUP had gone to another party.

``I actually live in Lagan Valley, and I voted for Jeffrey, and I feel let down,'' he said.

Donaldson claimed a by-election ahead of the next general election in 18 months time would be expensive and unnecessary.

``Mr Trimble seems to ignore the fact that it was he and a small number of his supporters who orchestrated the move to have me expelled from the party.''

But there appears to be quiet relief among supporters of Mr Trimble that a focal point for dissent had been removed.

Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey said the defections would not change anything: ``We all know Jeffrey, in particular, has been anti-agreement since 1998,'' he said.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News