Peace talks in Dublin between DUP leader Ian Paisley and the 26-County government were described as ‘forthright’ but have failed to yield tangible signs of progress.
Mr Paisley said he told Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that any attempt to give speaking rights to northern representatives in the Dublin parliament would be considered an “act of aggression against Northern Ireland” by his party.
“If it transpires that Northern Ireland MPs are to be treated on an equal basis with those who are members of the southern parliament, then we would consider that a quasi-con-stitutional claim on Northern Ireland,” declared Paisley.
“Such an unfriendly act of aggression against Northern Ireland’s sovereignty would not be tolerated by us as unionists.”
Dublin officials said Mr Paisley had mistakenly believed that northern representatives would unofficially be accorded membership of the Dail.
Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said they had explained the proposal to the DUP “and I think a lot of the misconceptions they had about the idea were dispelled”.
There was no sign after the meeting, however, of any progress towards the implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
An official “Independent Monitoring Commission” is to report in January on any continuing activity by the Provisional IRA. Despite the IRA’s recent declaration of an end to its armed campaign, the DUP continues to refuse to hold talks with Sinn Féin.
Dr Paisley told reporters after the meeting that the IMC had told him there was no prospect”it would give “a clean bill of health” what he called “IRA/Sinn Féin”.
Asked if saw himself sharing power with Sinn Féin he said: “No. Not with IRA/Sinn Féin. I believe as the Taoiseach has said and also the Minister for Justice has said, that terrorism must finish. The IRA has to be disbanded.”
Mr Paisley also railed at the failure of the Dublin government to extradite the Colombia 3 following the recent return of the three republicans who faced a miscarriage of justice in that country.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, has challenged the DUP to stop propping up the widely disliked direct rule from London.
Speaking after talks at Hillsborough Castle earlier this week, Mr McGuinness said he wanted Mr Paisley to stand by his word and enter government with Sinn Féin now that the IRA had decommissioned its weapons.
He accused Mr Paisley of betraying his own electorate and failing to show the “new confident face of unionism” he promised following the last general election.
Further discussions will take place at Hillsborough Castle next week despite a boycott by the DUP. The “talks about talks” are intended to fix the positions of the various parties prior to possible renewed negotiations on re-establishing devolution, which could be held in the new year.
Mr McGuinness said: “For almost nine months of the last year the British prime minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern spent many long hours trying to convince Gerry Adams and myself that Ian Paisley would go into government with Sinn Féin if only the issue of arms could be resolved.
“Ian Paisley told them that the only issue that he was concerned about was the issue of arms - if that could be resolved he was prepared to go into government with Sinn Féin.”
Mr McGuinness said republicans had “delivered big time” by resolving the arms issue and had a right to inquire against that backdrop whether Ian Paisley would respond positively.
“Ian Paisley tells us he is a man of God. I would like to know whether he is a man of his word.”ht