British Prime Minister Tony Blair is to meet Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and DUP leader Ian Paisley tomorrow in the first such meeting since the elections earlier this month.
Speaking in Dublin in advance of the talks, Mr Adams again indicated his belief that the British Prime Minister is acting in good faith, despite negotiations repeatedly collapsing in the face of rising unionist demands.
“In this the final phase of Tony Blair’s premiership, we have a very unique opportunity to sort out all of these matters. But it needs a collective push to move it forward.
“Mr Blair has been very good on some of these core issues. It is my view that he wants to bed them down. He wants it to be part of his legacy and therefore there is a relatively limited time; the time to bed it down is now.”
The DUP,is expected to press Blair to scrap power-sharing and block Sinn Féin from ministerial posts in a restored administration in Belfast. They are also insisting Mr Blair should grant them seats in the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the London parliament, for the first time.
Tomorrow’s meetings follow the visit to Belfast today of George Bush’s envoy to the North of Ireland, Mitchell Reiss. Mr Adams this morning led a party delegation Michelle Gildernew and Gerry Kelly to meet with Mr Reiss in Belfast.
Sinn Féin has been pushing for intensive efforts to get the peace process back on track. It has called on the British government to push ahead with the implementation of demilitarisation, equality, human rights, collusion, Irish language policing and justice, irrespective of the DUP’s party’s hostility to power-sharing.
The 26-County Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, this week expressed his satisfaction that the Provisional IRA is seriously considering Gerry Adams’s call to end its activities and embrace peace and democracy.
Mr Ahern said he was “happy” the IRA was engaging in a detailed internal consultation programme about Mr Adams’s appeal. Mr Ahern said he was not putting a when the IRA should respond but said the IRA had to disarm, end “violence and “criminality” and that there would be an end to the IRA “in its present form”.
“It is only on those ground rules that we can move to peace and confidence,” he added. Mr Ahern indicated he would have no difficulty with the IRA continuing in a commemorative role.
Sinn Féin, however, has been scathing of the Dublin government’s own contribution to the peace process.
Mr Adams said that in a ten page script this week regarding the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern continued to “jibe” at Sinn Féin but did not devote “even one sentence” to the responsibilities of his government. “This is not good enough,” said Mr Adams.
Mr. Adams said his party wanted to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented in full, but that it was currently “in cold storage”.
“ The political institutions have been suspended for three years and progress, which had been made in the economy, in human rights and in equality is being reversed every day by unaccountable British direct rule ministers,” he said.
“Two major negotiations involving republicans, unionists and the Irish and British Governments achieved much progress. But crucially they failed to put the process back on track.
“This is the context in which I made my appeal to the IRA on April 6th. I set out my view of the way forward in clear and unambiguous terms. And I hope that the IRA will support such a position.”
But Mr Adams said others must also recognise their responsibilities.
“If the DUP believe that progress can be put off for a generation they are wrong. The two governments have a duty to move ahead with the implementation of the Agreement. People will not wait for another generation for basic human rights and entitlements. Nor should they be asked to.”