Sinn Féin has set a deadline of Halloween for a peace process deal involving the hardline unionist DUP.
Nationalists have grown increasingly exasperated with unionism’s insatiable demands and the tendency of the Irish and British governments to support increasingly hardline unionist positions.
Sinn Féin has said the Provisional IRA is ready to make a historical move to advance the peace process, a move thought likely to involve disarming and/or standing down.
Ian Paisley’s DUP is demanding a total shut-down of the IRA before the power-sharing Executive at Stormont can be resurrected. It is also demanding that the Good Friday Agreement is redrafted to isolate and limit Sinn Féin’s role in the Executive.
The moderate nationalist SDLP, meanwhile, has expressed a vehement determination to prevent what it calls the ‘retrofit of unionist majority rule’ onto the 1998 agreement.
The DUP proposals include a plan for Ministerial decisions and North-South functions to be subject to a (unionist) veto within the Belfast Assembly, as well as the cleaving of the joint Office of the First and Deputy First Minister.
Nationalists believe it is Paisley and his party that must change, not the Good Friday Agreement.
Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness asked: “Are they prepared to accept a comprehensive deal based on the core principles of the Good Friday Agreement, or are they going to continue to attempt through the two governments to erode the power-sharing fundamentals?”
“The DUP claim to be the confident and assertive leaders of unionism. So let us see some of that confidence.
“It is time for the DUP to decide if they accept power-sharing, equality, the All-Ireland architecture and the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement or not.”
Meanwhile, In a speech to students in Galway last night, Mark Durkan said: “If the DUP stays on stand and deliver mode on the Agreement the gaps will not be narrowed.
“After all it is not the Agreement that needs to change but the DUP’s attitude.
“The SDLP has never sought to deny the DUP anything that they are entitled to under the Agreement. But we will not let them deny the people of Ireland the Agreement that they voted for.”
Mr Durkan said he was not prepared to trust the DUP. “The DUP are asking us to trust them on power-sharing. Meanwhile they shaft nationalists at council level.
“In [Ian] Paisley’s Ballymena, in [Peter] Robinson’s Castlereagh, [Jeffrey] Donaldson’s Lisburn Council, the picture is the same - nationalists are excluded, and others, too, when they can,” he added.
“That is why we are taking nothing on trust from the DUP. We will not afford them a veto over nationalist ministers in the hope that they will not use it. We will not allow them new blocks on the North-South agenda on the assumption that they won’t abuse it,” he said.