Sinn Féin has accused Ian Paisley’s DUP of attempting to use delaying tactics to stretch the timetable within which there should be an Executive formed at the shadow Belfast Assembly.
The Assembly’s Preparation for Government Committeee finally met this week following an intervention by Mr Hain in the protracted dispute over its chairmanship.
Two deputy speakers, Sinn Féin’s Francie Molloy and Jim Wells of the DUP, were appointed following a week of rancorous disagreement.
“The deadlock must not be allowed to stand in the way of the important work that needs to be done,” said Hain.
For arcane political reasons, the DUP later claimed the office of the Assembly speaker Eileen Bell was providing the joint chairmen, who would not be presiding over deliberations in their capacity as party representatives.
Sinn Féin declined opportunities to criticise the DUP over appearing to accept an arrangement yesterday which it had railed against last week.
However, the nationalist SDLP accused Ian Paisley’s party of not treating the committee seriously.
“This was a particularly frustrating meeting which indicated a lack of seriousness on the part of the DUP,” said Sean Farren after the latest encounter.
“After four meetings the committee still has not settled on a substantive agenda and there remain serious question marks over the seriousness of the DUP’s intentions in relation to the committee. This delay is not conducive to creating a positive atmosphere on the committee.
“It basically means that yet another week will be allowed to slip by without any progress being made.
“This is a matter of considerable frustration to the SDLP. The committee has substantive business to address - it should have been allowed to do so a long time ago.”
Sinn Féin Newry Armagh MP Conor Murphy warned British Direct Ruler Peter Hain against pandering to the negative agenda of the DUP.
“The message from the British government should be clear and simple,” he said. “If the DUP are not prepared to do the work required to get the institutions up and running then they will call time on the Hain Assembly.
“The DUP have got to take responsibility for getting down to business. Instead they are fixated with the pantomime of talking shop debates.”
Mr Murphy said there were “very important bread and butter issues” that needed to be dealt with, “but this will only happen when get a power sharing Executive back in place.
“The coming weeks will test whether the DUP are serious. Pandering to the DUP by providing them a cover for their intransigence is a mistake and means that they will be less likely to genuinely engage in the necessary work required to prepare for government.”
Meanwhile, 26-County Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has reiterated his warning that the November 24th deadline for the restoration of the Northern Executive is not negotiable.
“It is not just a date in the calendar and any party that believes the deadline is movable is making a serious error of judgment,” he told the Dublin parliament during questions on the North.
Confirming that he and British prime minister Tony Blair would meet the political parties later this month, he said it would be “disappointing if by that stage the parties had not moved beyond procedural wrangling and trench warfare”. Time was limited and it was essential that all the parties committed themselves to the process.
“In particular there is an obvious need for the DUP to engage with Sinn Féin. These are the parties with the largest mandates and the largest responsibilities,” he said.