Irish Republican News · April 26, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Northern parties clash over government proposals

Sinn Féin has been accused of damaging the Good Friday Agreement by its nationalist rivals in the Six Counties, the SDLP.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan has challenged Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams to a public debate on what he called “the damage done” to the 1998 accord in the current negotiations.

Certain demands of the hardline unionist DUP for changes to the operation of the northern institutions appear in proposals published this week by the two governments.

The SDLP claimed in a new deal, the DUP would secure a veto over key decisions by nationalist ministers and the scrapping of the joint election of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

The party also criticised the deal for not compelling the DUP to make any commitment to any new areas of cross-border co-operation.

“Why has Sinn Féin been so fixated on the issue of photographs of decommissioning, which may only be used once when they have handed the DUP vetoes over what nationalist ministers can do, which can be used more than once?”, asked Durkan.

The SDLP also said there were “inconsistencies” over the timetables for Sinn Féin moves to support new policing arrangements.

However, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said that the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement were protected in the talks.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Conor Murphy said his party stood over its record in defence of the agreement.

“While the SDLP have been unhelpfully snipping from the sidelines Sinn Féin have been defending the rights of nationalists, the equality agenda and all-Ireland architecture against the objective of the DUP to achieve such a veto,” he said.

“The reality is that unionists and the British government have already contrived to bring the institutions down 4 times. In that regard the commitment to remove suspension legislation is significant progress in strengthening the agreement although it is impossible to legislate for any unionist threats to walk away from the institutions.

“The SDLP is in no position to lecture Sinn Féin about the defence of the Agreement. The approach of the SDLP approach to a relatively small number of key issues demonstrates that they are increasingly directionless.”


Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble accused the DUP of making concessions to Sinn Féin by allowing additional North-South bodies and promoting the devolution of justice powers.

He also claimed that said that the DUP now supported the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Holding a copy of the 1998 agreement in one hand and the governments’ proposals published on Wednesday, Mr Trimble said that DUP support for the latter meant they accepted the other. “So, what were the last six years about?” he asked.

“What on earth were you doing for the last six years when at the end of the day you accept these?

“When you go through the detail of this you will see very little you have achieved for it all and lots of things you have done to meet the agenda of republicans.”

He said that the latest proposals, backed by the governments and the DUP, mean that Dr Paisley would have to vote for a Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister and three Sinn Féin ministers. “Instead of voting for one, they will vote for four - I’m sure that’s progress.”

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© 2004 Irish Republican News