DUP holds out against Agreement
Two days of talks in Belfast this week have again failed to
produce the breakthrough which appeared imminent during
intensive negotiations last weekend in southern England.
Divisions between pro and anti-agreement parties have widened
following the acrimonious end to two days of talks at Stormont
parliamentary buildings on Wednesday night.
Nationalist negotiators are dismayed that a major IRA concession
last weekend has failed to end the efforts of Ian Paisley's DUP
to undo key elements of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
The DUP has made a number of technical proposals for changes to
the operation of the Belfast Assembly which would have the
effect of ending power-sharing with nationalists. The chief
mechanism which they have suggested is ministerial
"accountability" to the Assembly or to other Ministers, seen
nationalists as a recipe for institutionalising the current
Following the failure of the Leeds Castle talks, there have
beeen suggestions that proposals by the Irish and British
governments could be made public in an attempt to resolve the
political deadlock. However, there is still no indication that
this is about to take place.
British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy claimed progress was
"It was disappointing we couldn't finish things, but the fact is
that the largest party [the DUP] is not a pro-agreement party
and the others are pro-agreement. This raised questions of
trust," he said.
Mr Murphy said officials were still working on joint proposals
with the Irish Government, "but we're not talking about a long
time", he said.
The SDLP accused the DUP of "not engaging" during a three-hour
meeting at Parliament Buildings.
A spokesman said: "There was no movement on anything of any
significance." The party accused the DUP of "waiting for the
British government to try to cut them a better deal".
The SDLP and Sinn Fein together are holding out against unionist
proposals which enable executive ministers to challenge each
They also oppose suggestions that Assembly members should have
the means to overturn unpopular ministerial decisions, exercise
more control over the executive's dealings with the Dublin
Government and change the system for voting first and deputy
David Ervine, leader of the Progressive Unionists, accused the
DUP of being "culturally unable" to signing up to anything with
For the Ulster Unionists, Mr Michael McGimpsey said the
concentration of debate on Assembly structures risked letting
the IRA off the hook on questions of decommissioning and the
ending of paramilitary activity.
"Where is the IRA statement? "Is the war over? Is 'melt away'
the same as disband? Everyone is so fixated by the paper chase
and political geekery up at Stormont that pressure on
republicans is being forgotten about."
Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP speaking after a
meeting in London today stated that 'Sinn Fein has consistently
said that there can be no dilution of the fundamentals of the
Good Friday Agreement and that the role of the British
government must be defend the core principles of the Agreement'.
Speaking in Belfast today Mr McGuinness said:
"It is clear that the progress achieved at Leeds Castle is based
upon a strong defence of the core principles of the Good Friday
Agreement - power sharing, all Ireland Institutions and
Equality. The two governments, and particularly the British
government are in absolutely no doubt that there can be no
comprehensive agreement if there is any attempt to dilute these
"This week has not seen the progress that was made at the Leeds
Castle talks built upon. We have not seen the resolute defence
of these principles by the two governments. Sinn Fein has
consistently said that there can be no dilution of the
fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement and that the role of
the British government is to defend the core principles of the
"Progress on achieving comprehensive agreement, involving the
DUP, is only possible if the DUP move away from their
"The DUP want nationalists and republicans to trust them. Yet
the track record of unionism in the Assembly, and tellingly in
unionist dominated councils is one of exclusion, discrimination
and refusal to share power. This is why any dilution of the
principles of the all Ireland, power sharing and equality
aspects of the agreement is totally unacceptable to nationalists
"There is a particular responsibility on the two governments to
spell out this reality to the DUP. Sinn Fein is the largest
nationalist party, the largest pro-agreement party and we will
not agree or sign up to anything that dilutes or undermines the
core principles of the Good Friday Agreement."