Process ‘has not stopped’
Process ‘has not stopped’

The British government has suggested that serious efforts to restore the North’s power-sharing institutions may be put off until after the summer, drawing criticism from Sinn Féin for backing what it said was a timetable set by unionist hardliners.

The Irish and British Prime Ministers will participate in talks in London this Friday with all the parties in the North.

Sinn Féin has said the party is keen to strike a deal as soon as possible to restore the power-sharing institutions in the North.

The party’s Assembly Group leader Conor Murphy expressed frustration that the governments had “bought into the timeframe set down by the DUP”.

“Once again the governments are allowing unionism and, in particular, a party which has clearly declared itself against the Good Friday Agreement and which refuses to accept and respect the mandates of others to set the pace in the process,” he said.

“This is unacceptable. There is no reason why the effort to resolve this should be put off for the summer and we will put this directly to the British Prime Minister and the Taoiseach.”

Meanwhile, Britain’s Direct Ruler in Ireland has urged members of the public to cheer up and not be disheartened at the continuing failure to implement the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Murphy described the talks on Friday as “a stock-taking exercise” in tandem with a document it has prepared reviewing issues raised in the ongoing review of the Good Friday Agreement in Belfast.

“I do not know if a deal is likely to be done this week but obviously both governments would like it to be done,” he said.

“But we have to be realistic and it may take longer than that.

“We have to take stock and the Prime Ministers will be taking stock when they meet each of the parties.”

While he understood the frustration, Paul Murphy said “people have to look at the big picture”.

“There are setbacks and those can happen and there may well be difficulties in the future but I ask people to be patient and to understand that we are working towards devolution.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has been granted leave to apply for a judicial review of Mr Murphy’s decision to punish them over alleged IRA activity.

The British Direct Ruler made the decision following a report in April by the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), which was dismissed as a propoganda exercise by republicans.

The IMC’s first report on paramilitary activity recommended financial sanctions on Sinn Féin and the Progressive Unionist Party, which is linked to the unionist paramilitary UVF.

Mr Murphy decided to cut the two parties’ funding from the British Exchequer, which they receive to run their offices at the Belfast Assembly.

Justice Girvan gave his ruling on Thursday, with other elements of the party’s application adjourned until 29 June.

These include a claim that the legislation which established the IMC was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In its court papers, Sinn Féin said it “is not the IRA and is publicly committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means.”

It pointed out that the IMC, which drew from unnamed British military and police sources, used untested information from unidentified sources which were “inherently unreliable and incapable of verification”.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News