Ian Paisley’s DUP is likely to give only “a conditional response” to the St Andrews document next week in tactically stating they will only go along with a political deal on power-sharing government if certain demands are met.
With Sinn Féin also unlikely to simply reject the proposals published by the Dublin and London governments following negotiations in Scotland last month, it appears that the November 10 deadline for the parties to indicate their support for the proposals will pass without a crisis.
However, British Direct Ruler Peter Hain has insisted that his government will not allow deadlines to slip.
“I need to know from the parties on Friday next week whether they are up for the St Andrews agreement or not,” Mr Hain said.
“We have, of course, since the St Andrews talks, been clarifying points and negotiating with the parties.
“However, the decision must be made next week.
“They need to tell us if they will remain on board the train, if they want to get off it or derail it.
“As far as we are concerned the destination is devolution by March 26 next year and along the way there will be the nomination of first and deputy first ministers on November 24.
“Now they can either have that or the dissolution of the assembly. It is a simple choice.”
The Deputy leader of the DUP Peter Robinson said there were people in the party who had concerns about the St Andrews proposals and “those people are amongst the leadership of our party. Ian Paisley has concerns, I have concerns and other officers have concerns. That’s why we are saying there is no done deal, there are still issues to be resolved. We have been pushing those matters since we came out of St Andrews with the [ British] government.”
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the British and Irish governments must not allow the time frame for power-sharing in the north to slip.
“Our concern is that the time frames set by the two governments have been slipping.
“They should not be allowed to slip,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Adams said that he would be getting feedback from Sinn Féin party members and supporters over the next two days on their all-island consultation on policing.
Up to 60 meetings have been held and Mr Adams is due to get a report on these discussions.
Meanwhile, grass roots DUP activists have been attending internal meetings on the St Andrews deal and it is understood that there has been a mixed response to the proposals.
It is expected that the DUP may call an executive meeting in advance of making their response to the governments next Friday.
DUP leader Ian Paisley again insisted this week that Sinn Féin needs to fulfil its obligations and to fully support the police, the courts and the rule of law.
The rapid transfer of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast is a key demand for Sinn Féin and considered essential by republicans to support the PSNI police and Six-County justice system.
However, Mp Paisley also said there was no question of any transfer of policing and justice powers until there was “confidence in the community”. DUP colleague Nigel Dodds went further and suggested this week that the devolution of policing and justice was not likely to happen “in a political lifetime”.
Meanwhile, SDLP leader Mark Durkan has come out in favour of a referendum on the St Andrews Agreement, saying it would enable the British and Irish governments to ‘put it up’ to the DUP.
“The way to get the DUP to move is to put them under pressure,” said the Foyle MP. “That’s what worked at St Andrews. Faced with a firm deadline and a tough bottom line, the DUP were forced to shift position.
“But since then, the governments have given the DUP the impression that they are back in control. So, it’s no surprise that the DUP now believe that they can push further and get more.”