Irish Republican News · February 12, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Blair wants SF excluded - Durkan

The British government has disputed an allegation by the leader of the nationalist SDLP party in the North, Mark Durkan, that it had urged the formation of an administration in Belfast which would freeze out Sinn Féin.

Without the SDLP, a Stormont executive exluding elected Sinn Féin Ministers would have no nationalist participation and would be open to international ridicule.

As SDLP members attended their annual conference in Derry, Mr Durkan said he had been urged to enter a “voluntary coalition” with unionists during a meeting in January.

“He pushed us very strongly in the direction of voluntary coalition or exclusion, call it what you will.

“He was quite prepared to accept those terms as being interchangeable.”

The idea of the exclusion of Sinn Féin has been promoted by Ian Paisley’s hardline unionist DUP. But the revelation that it is the preferred option of Mr Blair did not appear to surprise Sinn Féin negotiators.

“It has always been clear that it was the hope of the British Government that the Good Friday Agreement would see the emergence of the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP as the dominant parties in any institution of arrangement,” said Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness.

“In reality, today’s remarks by Mark Durkan are an effort by him to make his party relevant going into the election.

“The Electorate has always spoken on this matter and Sinn Féin in confident they will do this again in the upcoming elections.”

A spokesman for Mr Blair said the British government did not have a fixed idea on the way forward.

“The Government’s position is that it has to explore all the options being put forward by the various parties,” a Downing Street spokesman said. “That does not mean it has decided on a particular one option.”

Meanwhile, Mr Durkan launched his party’s Westminster election campaign with a major attack on Sinn Féin, accusing Gerry Adams of lying.

“Why would we believe you over the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern) who has done so much for the peace process? Why would he say what he did unless he had the clearest and most convincing Garda intelligence in front of him,” Mr Durkan asked.

The SDLP is under threat from Sinn Féin in all three of its seats in the British parliament, and is also facing losses in the local elections, to be held on the same day. It is believed the elections will be called for May 5th.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News