The Dublin and London governments announced today they would draw up legislation to implement the St Andrews proposals to revive power sharing in the North of Ireland.
Following the responses of parties in the North to the proposals, British Direct Ruler Peter Hain and Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern issued a statement saying: “When we concluded our talks at St Andrews in October we asked the parties to reflect on the agreement, to consult with their membership on the proposed way forward and to confirm their acceptance by November 10th.
“These consultations are now complete and the Governments have been in contact with the parties.
“We are satisfied from these contacts that the St Andrews Agreement, implemented in good faith, represents the basis for a political settlement.
“That settlement must rest on the two foundations of support for power-sharing and the political institutions and support for policing and the rule of law.
“Securing these objectives remains the priority of the two Governments and of everyone in Northern Ireland.
“We will now proceed to ensure full implementation of the St Andrews Agreement and the British government will bring forward legislation to give effect to the Agreement.
“There is much to be done and there is a responsibility on all to play their part. We will work actively with the parties to complete this task and clear the way for a new era for the people of Northern Ireland.”
Last night the DUP issued a non-committal statement on the St Andrews process. Following a meeting in Castlereagh on the outskirts of Belfast, a resolution was passed neither backing nor rejecting the agreement. Earlier this week, Sinn Féin confirmed it would follow the course set out in the proposals presented by the two governments following intensive negotiations in Scotland last month.
However, the DUP warned last night there would be “adverse implications” for the timetable laid out at St Andrews if Sinn Féin do not quickly support the PSNI police and the [British] rule of law.
No dates were set down in the St Andrews proposals for Sinn Féin to support the police or for the transfer of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast, two of several key issues which remain to be dealt with.
The DUP said: “As Sinn Féin is not yet ready to take the decisive step forward on policing, the DUP will not be required to commit to any aspect of power sharing in advance...”
This threatens to undo the governments’ timetable, which calls for the inauguration of DUP leader Ian Paisley as First Minister alongside Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister by November 24.
The date has been described as an “absolute and immovable” deadline before the back-up ‘Plan B’ is set in motion. This is understood to provide for a series of steps towards joint authority of the Six Counties by the two governments.
In a speech to Irish American supporters in New York last night, Mr Adams confirmed there were still issues around policing to be resolved before he could recommend a special party conference [Ard Fheis].
“I have made clear that when the British government and the DUP conclude with us in a satisfactory way on the outstanding policing issues, I will go to the Sinn Féin ardchomhairle and seek a special ardfheis,” he said.