DUP raises new demand
DUP raises new demand

Ian Paisley’s DUP has set down a marker against any prospective Sinn Féin Minister for Justice in a revived Belfast executive.

After a meeting with British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy in Belfast, DUP MP Nigel Dodds said the nomination of any former IRA prisoner as policing and justice minister would not be acceptable.

Mr Dodds said: “When it comes to policing and justice it will come down to confidence.

“There is no question of us having this power unless there is confidence in the community in the office.

“It would certainly not create confidence if we were to have someone like [Sinn Féin spokesperson on policing and justice] Gerry Kelly or anyone else who has had a terrorist conviction.”

Politicians are making a fresh push to revive the Belfast Assembly and power sharing executive next month.

The talks will culminate in three days of intensive peace progress negotiations at Leeds Castle in Maidstone on September 16 to 18 involving British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Despite optimistic noises from London, observers believe there is little immediate prospect of a comprehensive deal to resolve the continuing fall-out from the failure to implement the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Despite suggestions by Sinn Féin that the Provisional IRA could be wound up as a concession to unionist demands, the traditional unionist hardliners appear to have set the bar too high for any sudden breakthrough.

Other than the future activities of the IRA and its arms, the key outstanding issues are British demilitarisation, the integrity of the power-sharing institutions and policing and judicial reform.

Nigel Dodds said only a deal in line with the DUP manifesto in last year’s Assembly elections would be acceptable to his party.

Asked if his party was more upbeat about the prospects of a deal than they were earlier in the summer, Nigel Dodds replied: “I do not think anything has happened in the interim that has changed our minds.

“Since then the parades issue has come up and and created some problems in terms of trust and confidence about where the Provisionals are coming from - especially when it comes to recognising unionist culture.

“However we are approaching the coming weeks with a lot of vigour and energy to try and get progress.”

Sinn Féin reacted angrily to the DUP’s warning about the policing and justice post.

Newry and Armagh Assembly member Conor Murphy said: “In our discussions over the summer with the two governments we have focussed on the key issues which we believe all of the participants have a contribution to resolve.

“This includes the transfer of powers on policing and justice.

“The DUP have now accepted the logic of the need to transfer policing and justice powers but it is not down to the DUP to dictate to Sinn Féin or any other parties who to nominate to any future executive.”

The Sinn Féin Assembly Group leader said his party was seeking a meeting with the British government to discuss the forthcoming negotiations.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin chief negotiator Mr Martin McGuinness has called for direct dialogue between Sinn Féin and the DUP, which the DUP has long refused.

Mr McGuinness made the call in an article to mark the tenth anniversary of the IRA ceasefire, included below. He said republicans had sought to engage with their opponents and to develop ways to overcome difficulties and differences with their adversaries.

“The challenge now is to continue the forward movement and not allow the advance we have made to be undermined by complacency, intransigence or lack of imagination,” he said.

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