SF FACING HIGH HURDLES
Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party has said it it is
willing to work with Sinn Fein in a Six-County power-sharing
executive, but only if it supports the police, and the IRA ends
its activities and and disarms in a convincing fashion.
The party's deputy leader, Peter Robinson, said under such
conditions, it would be possible that control of policing and
justice could eventually be devolved to a restored Belfast-based
However, the party is still refusing to engage in direct talks
with Sinn Fein.
That party said that it was time for the DUP to respect Sinn
Fein's mandate as the largest nationalist party in the North.
And Sinn Fein chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin warned that
republicans had little faith in the British government and its
commitment to the peace process
In his newspaper article on Monday, Robinson demanded
"certainty" that Sinn Fein was employing "exclusively peaceful
and democratic" means. In such circumstances, the transfer of
justice and policing powers was "no big move" for unionists,
But he claimed that, at present, unionists could not tolerate a
Sinn Fein minister for policing and justice.
Despite the extreme conditions, there was some degree of welcome
by Sinn Fein that the DUP could accept the devolution of
policing and justice powers to Belfast.
"The issues which need to be addressed as part of a
comprehensive package have been identified," said Mr McLaughlin,
in response. "Nationalists and republicans acknowledge that
there are issues of concern for Unionists.
"If the DUP accept that the range of issues which are of concern
to nationalists and republicans must be dealt with, including
the core issue of transfer of policing and justice powers away
from London, then our collective responsibility is to move
quickly to resolve these issues. This is a huge challenge but it
has to be faced up at some point."
Mr Robinson listed four issues that need to be settled in talks,
to reach a climax in southern England next month, "if we are to
succeed in reaching overall agreement".
* a "definitive and conclusive end" to paramilitary activity;
* the decommissioning of all paramilitary weapons "to an early
time scale and on a convincing basis";
* a "clear commitment on all sides to the stability of the
political institutions and to changes to their operation agreed
within the talks";
* support for policing "from all sides of the community and an
agreed framework for the devolution of policing."
Following "completion on the key issues", the DUP would
"enthusiastically and robustly" sell an agreement to the wider
unionist community, Mr Robinson claimed.
Decommissioning and an end to IRA activity "would transform the
political climate and justify greater faith in the political
process. It is in this context - with the structures and
institutions settled in and the agreement consolidated - that
unionists would be looking for the transfer of further powers."
SF DOUBTS COMMITMENT
There is little expectation, particularly in DUP circles, that a
conclusive deal will be reached in the short term.
As Sinn Fein members of the suspended Assembly and support staff
discussed strategy this afternoon, Mr McLaughlin pointed out
that republicans were not convinced of the commitment to
progress by the two governments, especially the British
government, and the DUP.
"Given the British government's track record of failing to
implement the Agreement, its breach of commitments made last
October, its creation of the IMC and much more, there are many
who believe it is failing the peace process," he said.
"The British government therefore faces a major challenge in the
immediate time ahead. Either it stands with the Good Friday
Agreement, and builds a bridge toward democracy and equality, or
it sides with the forces of reaction as successive British
governments did for decades.
"The reality at this time is that elements within the British
system, the securocrats and the faceless pro-union bureaucrats
of the NIO, are doing their best to subvert progress and to
encourage the backward slide.
"If republicans and nationalists are to be convinced that the
British government is serious about making this process work we
need to see evidence that the Good Friday Agreement is being
implemented, positively, constructively, speedily.
Mr McLaughlin said the key problem issues which "all of the
participants have a contribution to resolve" were:
* The need for all parties to participate fully in the
* The issues of policing and justice, and especially agreement
by unionists on the transfer of powers to the Executive and
Assembly within a specific timeframe.
* The issue of armed groups and of arms
* The issues of human rights, equality and sectarianism.
He said the British and Irish governments also have
responsibility for other matters.
But he bemoand the fact that the DUP "is refusing to talk
directly to Sinn Fein and has set so many pre-conditions for
He said this was a a challenge for that party but also for the
two governments if the institutions are to be restored.
"We also raised with the governments but particularly the
British government the Pat Finucane case and its reneging on its
commitment to hold an inquiry, as well as the wider issue of
"Sinn Fein's goal is to achieve a comprehensive definitive
agreement on all the outstanding issues. But to achieve that the
two governments and the DUP have to play their part. The British
government has the pivotal role in creating the context for
this. So far we have seen little evidence to suggest that it is
up to this challenge."