Irish Republican News · November 2, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

The Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, has warned there are only 20 days left to break the current impasse in the North’s peace process or else it is in danger of “drifting out”.

Speaking in the Dublin parliament today, Mr Ahern set a deadline of November 26th to restore the executive and assembly in the Six Counties -- the anniversary of last year’s elections.

If agreement cannot be reached by all parties the Taoiseach said the two governments “will find another way to move this forward”.

“If we go past the 25th of November the two governments will have to look at what’s the best way to continue. That will be the key part of our meeting in Brussels next week,” Mr Ahern said.

The Taoiseach will meet British Prime Minister Mr Blair at the European Council meeting in Brussels later this week.

Arguments between nationalists and Ian Paisley’s DUP over powersharing and the future of the Good Friday agreement escalated yesterday with no sign of common ground emerging.

Specifically, nationalists want the British and Irish governments to get some straight answers from the DUP on powersharing both at local government level and in a restored assembly.

Unionists have tonight set out a series of conditions to be satisfied in any restored Belfast administration. The DUP called for:

* Executive office only for those demonstrably and irreversibly detached from armed paramilitary organisations and criminal activity.

* An effective mechanism to exclude any who subsequently breach the practice of exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

* The Assembly as the elected forum must have the capacity to call executive members to account, both in the exercise of executive functions and cross-border responsibilities.

Senior Paisleyite Gregory Campbell insisted earlier that his party believed the Good Friday Agreement is “over”, associating the agreement with “humiliation and failure”.

Mr Campbell said that unionists were not going to be “bullied”.

“It is only when structural changes are implemented will there be a settlement in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“The assembly, any new executive and individual ministers must become more accountable, the east-west axis must be given the same status to any north south relationship.

“The cultural identity of the pro-Union people must be offered to the unionist community in all areas where nationalists and republicans are still playing a desperate rearguard action.”

He said that the strong message to Gerry Adams and Mark Durkan is that there will be no turning back and “the Belfast agreement era is over.”

The SDLP and Sinn Fein have urged the British and Irish governments to allow a return powersharing.

But Sinn Fein Vice President Pat Doherty today said that recent moves by the DUP indicate that they appear to be moving backwards away from a deal.

Mr Doherty said Campbell’s statement was an indication that DUP leaders were “still locked onto their anti-Agreement agenda”.

He also pointed to last week’s move in Castlereagh Council, when the DUP Deputy leader Peter Robinson opposed power-sharing on the divided council, He said this was “a very clear message that the DUP have not yet made the transition from a party seeking domination and power to a party comfortable with equality and power sharing”.

“This was followed up by a statement from Gregory Campbell indicating that the DUP were still locked onto their anti-Agreement agenda. The DUP claim to be democrats, yet they continue to ignore the reality that the vast majority of people on this island support the Good Friday Agreement.

“If a deal is to be done it will only be done on the basis of the framework laid out in the Good Friday Agreement. There can be no other way.

“Recent actions and comments from the DUP seem to indicate that they are backing away from such a deal, uncomfortable with the core fundamentals and principles which underpin the Agreement and the process of change which flows from it.”

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© 2004 Irish Republican News