Although tomorrow’s deadline for a positive response to the St Andrews proposals is likely with with a conditional ‘Yes’ by the DUP, there are signs that Ian Paisley’s party will not meet the November 24th deadline for the designation of First and Deputy First Ministers.
The Dublin and London governments have said they will impose their so-called ‘Plan B’ for partnership government over the heads of the northern political parties if agreement on power-sharing is not reached by November 24.
DUP leaders are today briefing their Assembly members, officers and executive today before party leader Ian Paisley issues what is expected to be qualified approval of the so-called ‘St Andrews Agreement’. The governemnt proposals calls for the apointment in shadow form of the joint heads of the putative Six-County administration by the November 24 deadline.
But senior DUP figures have been briefing journalists that Ian Paisley will not allow himself to be designated as the First Minister alongside Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister, even in a symbolic fashion.
The DUP leader’s son, Ian Paisley jr, has said there would be no designation in any form on November 24th “without Sinn Féin delivery on policing”.
The party has insisted that Mr McGuinness pledge to support the police and court system while they remain under British jurisdiction -- ahead of the planned transfer of these powers to Belfast.
There are concerns within Sinn Féin that any move to overtly support the British ‘Crown forces’ and rule of law could create a split within the Provisional movement. Hardline republicans have already moved to capitalise on the suggestion.
While no date has been fixed for the creation of a Ministry of Policing and Justice in the North, the two governments have suggested that it could take place within two years.
Last month, the DUP leader boycotted a meeting of a committee intended to chart the programme for the return of power-sharing over the pledge issue, throwing doubts over the viability of the St Andrews plan.
Mr Paisley yesterday insisted he would not compromise on the policing issue.
“The Sinn Féin position on policing is now being seen as a complete nonsense and they will have no choice but to support the PSNI and the rule of law if they expect any movement whatsoever. There will be no compromise on this most fundamental of requirements.”
Speaking in New York at a Friends of Sinn Féin dinner tonight, Mr Adams said that at St Andrews Mr Paisley was “moved to say that he hoped there could be a better future for the children of the north.
“I watched and listened very closely to him. I think he was genuine. In my remarks I said the future was for all our children and I repeated the words of Bobby Sands.
“Since then of course Ian Paisley has refused to turn up at meetings. He has used language which is offensive and objectionable, but it is my guess that the DUP tomorrow will signal, in a qualified way their intention to give conditional support to the process outlined at St. Andrews.
“Maybe I’m wrong in that. But that’s my guess. And if not tomorrow, then some day soon.
“However if I am wrong then the governments must move on to fulfill their obligations.
“They have set out a sequence and a time table for implementation - they must stick to it. If the DUP will not participate then Dublin and London must roll out the partnership arrangements they have committed themselves to.
“Whether there is a power sharing government in the north or partnership arrangements between the two governments, Sinn Féin is moving forward with confidence in ourselves and our agenda.
“Our eyes are on the prize - peace and justice for every man, woman and child and a democratic and peaceful way forward into a united and free Ireland.”