All-Ireland work ‘will go on’

Ian Paisley’s DUP has been warned that an all-Ireland agenda led by the Dublin and London governments would proceed in the absence of agreement on power-sharing in the Six Counties.

The DUP has until a November 24 deadline to enter into talks with Sinn Féin and agree a historic deal to share power with republicans.

Dublin and London have vowed to move ahead with “partnership arrangements” -- some form of joint administration in the North by the two governments -- in the absence of agreement by their stated deadline.

On Monday, another session of the new corss-party “Preparation for Government Committee” ended in deadlock, with the DUP still refusing to engage in direct talks with republicans. The committee is intended to pave the way for the return of local administrative powers to Belfast.

Nevertheless, Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd said: “There is a growing demand and acceptance that expansion of the all-Ireland agenda is essential.”

He added that DUP failure to restore devolved government before the deadline would result in an increased role for the all-Ireland bodies proposed under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

“Sinn Féin believes that - in each case - there are very strong arguments in favour of the expansion of the role and remit of the existing areas of co-operation and implementation bodies as well as additional areas of co-operation and new implementation bodies.

“It is up to the two governments to ensure that the expansion of the all-Ireland agenda is handled smoothly and that the intransigence of the DUP is not allowed to slow the process.”

Sinn Féin is calling for additional new areas of North-South co-operation, including arts, heritage, economic planning and investment, while calling for the expansion of the remits of existing cross-border bodies which deal with such matters as lighthouses and waterways.

The DUP has also been accused of intransigence is blocking the transfer of policing and justice powers to a restored Belfast Assembly.

Policing and justice issues are considered key issues in any talks about the restoration of power-sharing.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on policing, Gerry Kelly, said that “considerable” cross-party agreement on policing issues had been achieved in a recent meeting.

“Sinn Féin argued that all powers and responsibilities on policing and justice issues currently held by the British government should be transferred to a locally accountable Assembly.

“We have reached agreement on the vast majority of issues that should be transferred,” Mr Kelly added. “The key outstanding matter is the timeframe for the transfer of these powers and, crucially, the restoration of the political institutions to allow this to happen. The only obstacle to achieving this is the DUP.”

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