‘Critical’ meeting planned between Sinn Fein and DUP
‘Critical’ meeting planned between Sinn Fein and DUP

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness is to seek a ‘defining’ meeting with DUP leader Peter Robinson over the deadlock in the peace process.

Speaking outside a meeting of the Sinn Fein leadership in Dublin this afternoon, party President Gerry Adams said his party had decided not to pull out of the stalled negotiations altogether despite its frustration at the lack of progress in the talks.

He said Sinn Fein was committed to finding a solution, which he said could be achieved if there was the political will.

“This is not about Sinn Fein hyping things up. This is not a game of poker,” the party president said. However, he warned that if institutions of the Six County administration were not working, “then they become pointless and unsustainable”.

Mr Adams insisted the meeting between Mr McGuinness and Mr Robinson would be a “critical and defining engagement”. But he refused to spell out publicly what sort of timeframe his party was putting on the talks.

“We consciously decided that we weren’t going to go into anything which would be interpreted by others, deliberately or otherwise, as a threat or ultimatum or deadline,” he said. “But, having said that, if it isn’t working on the basis that it was established, then no self-respecting political party or public representative would be part of something which is fast becoming a charade.”

26-County Taoiseach Brian Cowen and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will hold further telephone discussions this weekend over the issue. Mr Adams said the British and Irish governments must act as “guarantors” of a deal, “not referees”.

Almost four years ago, Sinn Fein backed the a renegotiation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement at St Andrews which included a condition that the Six-County Assembly would take over political responsibility for policing and justice from the London government. Since then, the DUP under Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson has frustrated the political process by raising a series of preconditions and exercising a veto in the Assembly.

Mr Adams said the DUP had most recently derailed the talks demanding the removal of the Parades Commission, which adjudicates on the routes of unwanted and contentious sectarian parades. But Mr Robinson claimed progress was being made in the negotiations and insisted there was no cause for concern.

The following is the full text of the statement issued by Gerry Adams this afternoon:

“The Ard Chomhairle has been meeting throughout the day and Martin McGuinness and I have been briefing colleagues on the detail of the recent discussions with the DUP.

“It would have been our hope when the Ard Comhairle was originally put back two weeks ago that we would have had something positive in terms of a resolution of current difficulties to put to this meeting. Unfortunately we are not in that position despite my very firm view that with the necessary political will all of these matters could and should have been sorted out before now.

“Within three months of the St Andrews Agreement, Sinn Fein had held an Ard Fheis on policing and had fulfilled our obligations.

“That was three years ago and we are waiting on the DUP to honour theirs.

“The failure thus far by the DUP to honour this St. Andrews obligation is symptomatic of a much bigger problem - their refusal to work partnership government, and in particular to work the office of OFM/dFM properly.

“The only agreement worth reaching is one which deals with this core issue. The political institutions can work and can deliver - but only if they function on the basis they were established. They are not sustainable otherwise.

“Equality and partnership are central to all of this.

“Our negotiating team has been given a very specific brief. Martin McGuinness will be seeking an urgent meeting with Peter Robinson.

“This will be a critical and defining engagement.

“The two Governments have been in touch with us last night.

“The Governments, who are the guarantors of the St Andrews and Good Friday Agreements, are also in default in outstanding issues. Particularly equality issues like Irish language rights and North/South structures.

“The governments need to set a date for transfer now.

“Martin spoke to the British Prime Minister and to a senior official in the Taoiseach’s Department. But let me say, the governments are not referees in this; they are guarantors with responsibilities and obligations. We will of course meet them but it is in the context of them coming forward with a date.

“Much of the commentary around this issue has been characterized by talk of Sinn Fein collapsing, or forcing an election. This is not about Sinn Fein hyping things up. This is not a game of poker. If the institutions are not working and not delivering - then they become pointless and unsustainable. What we are about is fixing the problems and returning to the basis upon which these institutions were established - Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Agreement.

“If that is not possible then no self respecting public representative or political party would want to be part of what would be nothing less than a charade.”

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