Sinn Féin has revealed that Ian Paisley’s DUP are refusing to even look directly at the party’s representatives across the table at meetings intended to prepare the way for the two parties to share power in the Six Counties.
Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd said summer meetings of the ‘Preparation for Government Committee’ have not built a common purpose amongst the parties.
Interviewed for the BBC’s Inside Politics programme, Mr O’Dowd said the DUP had yet to engage with his party.
He said at this stage, none of the parties were prepared for government.
“In the sense of identifying areas of common purpose, the DUP still have not directly engaged with Sinn Féin - in fact, they won’t even look directly at us across the table,” the Upper Bann representative said.
“So are we preparing for government? At this stage, I would say no, we’re not.”
There are just eleven weeks to go before the government deadline, when plans to set up the institutions outlined in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement are set to be scrapped.
On 15 May, politicians from the Six Counties took their seats in a ‘shadow’ assembly, a powerlessimitation of the original project which saw powers devolved from London to Belfast amid considerable fanfare in October 2002.
British Direct Ruler Peter Mandelson later reversed the process, ultimately reneging on Britain’s commitments to the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. Devolved government was suspended amid allegations of an IRA spy ring at the original Assembly, although the leader of the alleged plot later admitted to being a British agent.
Meanwhile, the DUP has said Sinn Féin must “hand back” over 26 million pounds sterling which it says was stolen by the Provisional IRA in a Belfast bank heist almost two years ago and “hand over” those responsible.
The Provisional IRA has denied any involvement in the raid. No evidence has ever emerged to link the raid to the IRA.
After the latest gathering of the Preparation for Government committee, North Antrim Assembly member Ian Paisley Jnr issued a rambling series of demands and preconditions from what he referred to as “Sinn Féin/IRA”. Among these were “the ending of a massive criminal empire, the ending of serious and organised crime, the ending of intimidation and the removal of fear from the community, support for the police and the handing over of criminals from their community”.
Mr Paisley’s statement came despite Sinn Féin’s support for a motion backing the standing down of all paramilitary groups last week.
Earlier, Sinn Féin representative John O’Dowd called on the DUP to face up to its own obligation to end unionist paramilitary activity. The call came after former DUP representative, George Seawright, was revealed to be a member of the UVF.
O’Dowd said: “Last week on the Preparation for Government Committee, the DUP agreed a motion demanding the end to paramilitary campaigns.
“The Good Friday Agreement requires that all of the parties use their influence to see an end to armed activity. Sinn Féin has lived up to this requirement in full.”
Mr O’Dowd said nationalists and republicans were sick of DUP politicians, and Ian Paisley in particular, lecturing their community on commitment to democratic activity.
“It is time that Ian Paisley and the DUP started to deliver on an end to unionist paramilitarism,” he retorted.
DUP BIGOT WAS UVF GANGSTER
Paisley was exposed as a hypocrite last week after a magazine attached to the unionist paramilitary UVF said that former party member George Seawright had been an active member of its murder gangs.
George Seawright, a former Belfast DUP councillor, was shot dead by the IPLO (Irish People’s Liberation Organisation), a tiny republican splinter group in 1987.
The self-confessed bigot once said that Catholics should be incinerated.
In a discussion over the playing of the British national anthem at concerts jointly run by state and Catholic schools, Seawright said those who objected were “Fenian scum, indoctrinated by the Catholic Church”.
“Taxpayers’ money would be better spent on an incinerator and burning the lot of them,” he said.
“The priests should be thrown in and burned as well.”
The DUP eventually disciplined him after intense political pressure but Ian Paisley attended his funeral in 1987.
A UVF publication has said Seawright was a volunteer in the Belfast battalion of the paramilitary group.
Fra McCann -- a Sinn Féin assembly member for west Belfast -- said the UVF admission raised a number of questions for Ian Paisley.
Mr McCann said: “The revelation that former DUP councillor George Seawright was a member of the UVF will not surprise many within the nationalist community who had first-hand experience of his sectarian politics in City Hall and elsewhere.”
The Sinn Féin man said the UVF has been involved in a brutal sectarian murder campaign against Catholics at the time.
“This revelation exposes once again Ian Paisley and the DUP’s hypocrisy when it comes to the issue of loyalist violence.
“Time and again, clear links between the DUP and loyalist death squads have been established.
“Time and again, the media allow the DUP leader off the hook.
“It is now time for the DUP and Ian Paisley to come clean and to live up to their responsibilities in bringing an end to unionist paramilitary campaigns and use their undoubted influence to see them engage with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.”