‘Political charade’ stumbles on

Nationalists have criticised Ian Paisley’s party for its continuing efforts to undermine a local power-sharing solution in the North of Ireland as set out in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

At the same time, Sinn Féin has accused the other political parties of lending support to “a political charade” directed by the DUP last week during what it said was a meaningless debate at the shadow Assembly at Stormint. As a November 24 deadline begins to loom closer, it appears increasingly likely that the British and Irish governments will move to a ‘partnership’ model for the government of the Six Counties.

Both the SDLP and Sinn Féin this week strongly criticised the DUP, which is now blocking attempts to set up committee subgroups at Stormont which were intended to pave the way for a return to power-sharing.

SDLP senior negotiator Sean Farren said the DUP had been at its “blocking best” at Monday’s meeting.

“They quibbled, queried, stalled and stopped negotiations,” he said.

“They didn’t want the preparation for government committee to set up an economic group for the most obscure and pedantic procedural reasons. Nor did they want to see a policing group set up or a group on changes to the institutions.

“The reason why they are blocking all this, though, actually has nothing to do with procedure and everything to do with politics.

“They want to kill off negotiations between the parties because they think that they can get a better deal in direct negotiations with the British government.”

Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness accused the DUP of deliberately blocking any genuine effort to make progress in the preparation for government committee.

“I have to say that this is typical of the attitude adopted by the DUP since this committee was first brought together. It also raises very serious issues which the two governments need to quickly address.

“As the DUP continue to block and frustrate the business of reforming fully functioning political institutions, it is becoming increasingly obvious that they are not interested in moving forward this side of the two governments’ November deadline.

“If this scenario is played out, then it will be very clear that the party who have blocked the formation of the political institutions was the DUP, and the two governments then need to close down the Hain assembly and bring forward joint partnership arrangements,” said Mr McGuinness.

* Support for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement has continued to decline, according to a new survey funded by the British Electoral Commission.

With the agreement still unimplemented, most people have called for change.

The vast majority of respondents in the survey believed that the accord should either be renegotiated in full (14 per cent) or in part (41 per cent).

Nine per cent believe the agreement should be abandoned altogether.

More than half the Six-County electorate (51 per cent) did say they would vote for it in a fresh referendum.

In 1998, 71 per cent of the population supported the agreement.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News