Plans for Six County members of the Westminster parliament in London to take part in a special committee of the Dublin parliament have been welcomed as a step forward by nationalist politicians in the North.
The 26-County coalition government denied there was a ‘side deal’ with Sinn Féin to set up the Dail committee in exchange for the policy shift on policing.
The committee had been promised in negotiations dating from 2003 but the plan was suddenly binned last year.
Government Chief Whip Tom Kitt revealed last week that plans were once again being considered for a multi-party body including Westminster MPs that would meet in committee rooms in Leinster House in Dublin.
Ulster Unionists expressed concern about the proposals.
“It is very much outside the Belfast agreement,” the UUP’s Danny Kennedy said.
“In fact it may well have emerged as a side deal from the St Andrews Agreement.
“Those who negotiated that deal will have to reflect on how successful it has been in the wake of this latest development. A side deal is emerging in Dublin which is not in the best interests of the union.”
“This is a non starter of little or no interest to unionists,” the DUP’s Ian Paisley jnr said.
“It is a fantasy committee for nationalists, now there is no hope of a united Ireland. It is a Fisher Price committee.’’
SDLP leader Mark Durkan, however, welcomed the announcement.
“It is a positive step forward and we hope it goes ahead. But our primary goal remains the achievement of a north south parliamentary forum as promised in the Good Friday Agreement and agreed again in the St Andrews deal,” Mr Durkan said.
Sinn Féin Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain said this was a long delayed first step which must be built upon in the time ahead.
But he said it was disappointing that the government proposals fell short of what had originally been agreed.
“Over the last number of years there have been huge strides forward in terms of all-Ireland economic and political development and it is important that this work is advanced,” he said.
“I believe that northern representation in the Dail, as well as the return of the power-sharing institutions in the north, will help this task immensely.”