Slow progress in talks
Participants in ongoing talks on the non-implementation of the
Good Friday Agreement remain downbeat about the prospects for
The Irish Prime Minister, who will meet with the British Prime
Minister on Sunday, downplayed prospects for developments ahead
of the June local and European elections.
"Whether we can make progress, sufficient progress, by the start
of June, I am not so sure," he said.
"But I think the determination (there is no lack of willingness
by me or the British government) to start negotiations now and
put as much work as we can over the next number of weeks and then
see if we can take it up successfully later on. It is really
important that we have a good summer."
Mr Ahern met Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams earlier this week
and appeared willing to improve relations with Sinn Fein after a
virtual collapse over sanctions imposed on the party over its
links with the IRA.
Mr Ahern went on: "Both of us certainly agreed that whatever
arguments, whatever bitternesses that have been around for some
time the big picture is the peace process."
Mr Adams predicted that the pace of official public contacts and
"intensive discussions, some of them understandably privately"
will now intensify.
Such contacts were necessary, he said. "I think we are in for a
continuation of the sort of bad atmospherics, a process which is
in stagnation and increasingly where people don't have any
confidence that it is being sorted out.
"We go forward in hope. We are not naive about these matters. We
know that these matters have to be tackled, have to be dealt
"The problems have not gone away. Don't anyone think on a warm,
sunny afternoon that these problems have gone away, but I think
that we at least have the promise of a focused approach to try
and resolve these problems."
POLICING REFORM REPORT
One problem is the continuing slow pace of police reform in the
The new police oversight commissioner Mr Al Hutchinson in the
Oversight Commission's 10th report published on Tuesday,
cautioned that the pace of reform to the RUC/PSNI special branch
as envisaged by the Patten Commission was far from "stellar".
A more detailed report on the Special Branch is to appear in
September this year.
Patten recommended that Special Branch, previously described as
a "force within a force", should be subsumed into the general
criminal division of the Police Service of Northern Ireland
It has so far remained unchanged, a fact which has prevented
Sinn Fein from joining the Policing Board.
Mr Hutchison was critical of the Dublin Government for failing
to enact the legislation necessary to allow the exchange of
officers between the PSNI and the Garda.
Such legislation was in place in the North, but "unfortunately
the lack of similar progress in the Republic of Ireland is an
impediment to the exchange of police officers."
Commenting on the latest report, Sinn Fein spokesperson on
Policing Gerry Kelly said that it was 'significant that the
report still indicated that Patten had not been implemented five
years on and showed the level of resistance to change which
Mr Kelly said the report highlighted the outstanding issues:
Special Branch; Demilitarisation of policing; Disbandment of the
Full-Time Reserve; Human Rights training and culture; and
He claimed Sinn Fein had already secured reforms through
amending legislation on policing and amending legislation on
"We now need to see legislation brought forward to transfer
powers on policing and justice, as Patten recommended and was
agreed in principle by the British government."
Meanwhile, in Belfast, the review of the 1998 Good Friday
Agreement was becoming a farce, according to Sinn Fein's Conor
"The stop-start approach to the review by the governments is
reducing it to the point of farce," he said, following a meeting
with government officials.
"If it is to serve the purpose for which it is designed there
must be a time-tabled focused discussion of a range of issues.
This has not happened to date."
He said his party had again asked the governments to respond to
proposals on the expansion of the All-Ireland agenda. We also
raised particular concerns about the failure to deliver centres
for Waterways Ireland and Autism.
"In the light of the British Secretary of State's decision to go
ahead with the imposition of penalties against both Sinn Fein
and, in effect against those we represent, on the basis of a
disgraceful and discredited report by the International
Monitoring Commission we believe the review should convene a
dedicated session to address the issue of breaches to the
"Sinn Fein are not in breach of the Agreement. Others are."