There are growing concerns that the hardline unionist DUP will remain as negative within the peace process as the party was outside amid ongoing tension over the details of a potential new deal.

Despite lending some support to the recent British and Irish proposals known as the St Andrews Agreement, there are indications that initial optimism for a historic breakthrough is subsiding.

The British government has again reminded the parties that the threatened 'Plan B', the details of which remain unknown, will be put in motion on November 24 if plans to restore power-sharing fail.

Under thr proposed timetable, Sinn Féin and the DUP need to be in agreement by November 10 for the nomination of the First and Deputy First Ministers.

However, DUP leader Ian Paisley is again insisting Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness pledge his support for the PSNI police next month ahead of the transfer of policing and justice powers to the restored Belfast Assembly. He also claimed that his party had gained a double veto over any such move.

"Whilst the proposed St Andrews Agreement contains considerable advances for unionism, it is far from a done deal," Paisley said at the weekend.

"Important aspects... such as the institutions and structures of devolved government, a financial package and equality and fairness measures for the unionist people require more effort."

Saying Sinn Féin must support policing structures, he added: "The DUP has secured in law... a veto over the devolution of policing and justice powers. The proposal cannot come to the assembly without the approval of the first minister and can only be passed in the assembly by a cross-community vote which requires the support of over 50 per cent of unionists. In both circumstances, the DUP has a veto."

A historic meeting between Mr Paisley and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams in Belfast last week was postponed, just four days after the St Andrews Agreement was published, because of a dispute about when Martin McGuiness would take a pledge to support the police.

Meanwhile, the nationalist SDLP has expressed serious concerns about the 'St Andrews Agreement'.

It says the proposals, as they stand, will mean any three ministers can veto the decisions of another minister.

This, it says, will lead to ministers suing each other in the courts, with roads, hospitals and schools potentially being left half-built while the legal wrangles are sorted out.

The SDLP also says the St Andrew's proposals will prevent the power-sharing Executive from working because it will be bogged down considering resolutions passed in the Assembly.


Both the SDLP and Sinn Féin are currently consulting their memberships on the the proposed deal.

Speaking at a conference on border issues yesterday, Gerry Adams said that the most important outcome of the Saint Andrews talks was that "Ian Paisley said yes, even if it was a qualified yes and even if he has wobbled since then.

"The fact is that Ian Paisley's conditional yes at Saint Andrews is a positive shift for rejectionist unionism. That is good for the rest of the people of this island."

Mr Adams said "republicans have to be magnanimous" but urged vigilance to ensure that the two governments do nothing that would undermine the 1998 Good Friday Agreement or its political institutions.

"The British government has to stop pandering to the unrealistic demands of the DUP," added.

"And the Irish government needs to assert it's role as co-equal partner with the British.

"It is crucially important that the Irish government doesn't stand back from the process. They need to ensure that the British government don't take short sighted decisions now which could cause greater problems down the road."


However, 26-County Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has continued to 'reach out' to Paisley, pointedly quoting him in an address at the graveside of republican hero Wolfe Tone.

And in remarks that goaded some republican hardliners, Ahern also suggested Irish resistance to British rule in Ireland was at an end. Referring to former British Prime Minister William Gladstone's mission to "pacify Ireland", he declared Tony Blair had finally fulfilled Gladstone's 19th century ambition.

Following a meeting of British and Irish Intergovernmental Conference, a cross-channel meeting of the Dublin and London governments, a joint communique said afterwards: "The two governments remain convinced that all parties wish to see devolution restored".

They reiterated that their deadline for progress remains firm and that in the event of failure to agree, they will proceed on the basis of the new British-Irish partnership arrangements to implement the Belfast Agreement.

Speaking after the meeting about the latest political developments, British Direct Ruler Peter Hain said in Dublin: "We're determined to get the final settlement in place. Everything stands together or falls together."

Bertie Ahern confirmed that intensive talks were ongoing between the two governments and the political parties to achieve further progress.

"I would hope that we can get over this line," he said.

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