Following two weeks of internal discussions on the St Andrews proposals by the Dublin and London governments, the Sinn Féin ard chomhairle (leadership) has voted to pursue the current process.
Today’s meeting also passed a motion declaring that the issue of policing and justice was a matter for the two governments and the political parties. It said that a timeframe for the transfer of powers and a model for the department on policing and justice still had to be agreed.
Today’s ard chomhairle meeting in Dublin was briefed by MEP Mary Lou McDonald who along with MP Conor Murphy had been heading the consultation on the agreement.
Ms McDonald said the party looked forward to the meeting of the Belfast Assembly to nominate the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on November 24. That meeting will set in train the process by which local power-sharing should return to the Six Counties by March.
She said: “Following a thorough discussion, the Ard Chomhairle agreed that the process set out at St Andrews has the potential to deliver the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and to bring about the restoration of the power sharing and all-Ireland political institutions.
“It also mandated the party leadership to continue with the ongoing negotiations to resolve the outstanding core issues.”
Speaking after the meeting, party president Gerry Adams said that the proposals had the potential to move the process forward.
He described the discussions as “robust”, and appealed to supporters to remain united.
“Let’s all stay together as we seek to move this process forward.”
Ms McDonald said there was “a huge responsibility” on all of the parties and the two governments.
“If we can bring about a situation where anti-agreement unionists share power on the basis of equality with republicans, it will be a huge achievement.”
“But we need to ensure that progress is made on the basis of the Good Friday Agreement. Events of the last two weeks show us how difficult all of this is going to be to achieve and how much work has still to be done.”
She also warned against “further slippage in terms of timescale”.
“We want to see all of the outstanding issues resolved, but we’re not there yet,” she said.
All the North’s parties have until 10 November to give their verdicts on the draft agreement.
The British and Irish governments have set a date of November 24 for the appointment of the First and Deputy First Ministers, and 26 March 2007 for a new power-sharing executive to be up and running.
At the weekend, 26 County Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said there was strong support within the DUP for the proposals, and said that the parties would support the proposals through to the legislative stage.
“I understand the DUP consultation process is 90 plus for (the St Andrews document),” he said.
FULL TEXT OF MOTION PASSED BY SINN Féin ARD CHOMHAIRLE
“The Ard Chomhairle notes the report on its consultation process and on recent discussions between the party negotiation team and the two governments.
This includes the concerns raised, the progress made and the work still ongoing.
We believe that the process set out at St. Andrews has the potential to deliver the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and to bring about the restoration of the power-sharing and all-Ireland political institutions.
However, there are elements in the document set out by the two governments, which require further work to keep them in line with the Good Friday Agreement.
There are ongoing negotiations in relation to a number of core issues which have yet to be resolved.
Subject to delivery of these issues the commitments set out in the governments, St. Andrews statement could represent a way forward. The Ard Chomhairle mandates the party President and national Officer Board to pursue all of this and to report back to the Ard Chomhairle.
We reiterate our view that the issue of policing and justice is a matter for the two governments and all the political parties. Issues to be agreed include a timeframe for the transfer of powers and a model for the department on policing and justice.
Sinn Féin is committed to bring an end to decades of repressive and sectarian policing.
We reject any role for MI5 in Ireland or in civic policing. We want to see democratically accountable civic policing and we will continue to work until we achieve this.”
FULL TEXT OF McDONALD STATEMENT
“Sinn Féin’s objective in the negotiations that led up to St. Andrews was to advance the peace process and bring about the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. This required the DUP to move to share power jointly with Sinn Féin in the Executive and participate fully in the All-Ireland Ministerial Council.
“If these objectives can be achieved they will mark an historic development on this island.
“Because of the importance of what is at stake we examined the proposals of the British and Irish governments in detail and consulted widely both within the party and in the wider community.
“There are ongoing negotiations on a number of core issues and there are elements in the two governments position which need further work to keep them in line with the Good Friday Agreement.
“Following a thorough discussion the Ard Chomhairle agreed that the process set out at St. Andrews has the potential to deliver the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and to bring about the restoration of the power-sharing and all-Ireland political institutions. It also mandated the party leadership to continue with the ongoing negotiations to resolve the outstanding core issues.
“The issue of policing also came up at today’s meeting but the primary focus of our deliberations was on the re-establishment of the political institutions following the St. Andrews talks.
“The resolution of the issue of policing and justice is a matter for the two governments and all the political parties. Issues, which need resolved include agreement on the model and timeframe for transfer.
“Sinn Féin is committed to bring an end to decades of repressive and sectarian policing. All elements in policing need to be accountable. Sinn Féin rejects any role in Ireland or in civic policing for MI5.
“Justice and the fair and impartial rule of law are essential elements of a society at peace with itself. We want to see democratically accountable civic policing and we will continue to work until we achieve this. Gerry Adams will propose to the Ard Chomhairle that we convene a special Ard Fheis as soon as these matters are resolved.
“Of course there are many challenges still to be overcome. The refusal of Ian Paisley to attend the Programme for Government Committee meeting is a set back. And the refusal of the British government to convene this committee in the three weeks since then has meant that little progress has been made in relation to some of the key outstanding issues.
“The Programme for Government Committee should meet urgently. There should be no more unnecessary delays. November 24th has been set by the governments for a meeting of the Assembly to nominate the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. We look forward to this happening.”