INSTITUTIONS 'MUST ADAPT' - BRITAIN
Nationalists have reacted angrily to a suggestion by the British
government that it could make significant departures from the
1998 Good Friday Agreement.
British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy had intended to tell delegates
at the British Labour Party's annual conference on Tuesday that
the North's suspended political institutions must be "responsive
to changing circumstances".
Hardline unionists have been insisting on changes which would
allow them to overrule Sinn Fein Ministers in a "power-sharing"
Six County administration in Belfast.
Ian Paisley's DUP are now demanding a new Agreement as well as
an IRA move to disarm and disband -- a prospect raised in
intensive talks over the past two weeks -- but have continued to
refuse to hold direct talks with Sinn Fein.
Paul Murphy collapsed at the conference centre in Brighton just
before he was due to deliver an address containing hints of
further concessions to unionism. He is believed to have suffered
from heat exhaustion and has taken time off to recuperate.
The speech, which was published Tuesday night, said: "The
Agreement was designed to grow prosperity from peace.
"But its fundamental purpose, of course, was to be the roots of
a new peace, a new politics and power-sharing for Northern
"That requires the institutions of the Agreement to develop.
"They must be vital and responsive to changing circumstance, not
sculpted from stone, beyond amendment or improvement.
"And the Agreement itself allowed for such growth. That's why it
had an in-built review mechanism."
Mr Murphy's speech said the current talks could not alter the
"fundamentals" of the Good Friday Agreement.
But the talks had also pointed the way to how the Assembly and
the cross-border institutions could be "improved", he would
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said the British government could
not make unilateral changes to the Good Friday Agreement.
"The Irish Government and the political parties have ownership
of the Agreement also," Mr McGuinness reminded ministers.
"The British Government has not yet shared its proposals with
"Sinn Fein will not support changes which will alter the
fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement.
"We will oppose any attempt to diminish the Agreement. We look
to the Irish government to do the same."
But nationalists were told to start preparing their community
Democratic Unionist MP Gregory Campbell claimed the SDLP and
Sinn Fein had belatedly woken up to the changes which would take
place to devolution. It came as his party leader the Rev Ian
Paisley travelled to Dublin to meet Irish Prime Minister Bertie
The Derry MP said: "The DUP remains absolutely resolute in our
conviction that the IRA must be out of guns and out of business,
once that is done there needs to be a satisfactory system of
Government to unionists as well as nationalists.
"These are the reasons the 1998 deal failed, there was no IRA
being redundant and the system was loaded against unionism.
"If we have to take flak for remaining consistent on these core
issues then so be it, we are not moving from them."
PAISLEY OPTS FOR GREY SKIES
Meanwhile, rhe Dublin government has declared the start of a new
relationship with Ian Paisley's hardline unionist DUP following
the party's first political talks in the 26 Counties.
Mr Paisley and his deputy Peter Robinson had over two hours of
talks on Wednesday at Government Buildings in Dublin with
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and his newly-appointed foreign affairs
minister, Dermot Ahern.
Several years ago, the likelihood of such a convivial meeting
was inconceivable. 'Screaming Ian' Paisley has always loudly
denounced any attempt by Dublin to engage in the North's
affairs, but he admitted yesterday that the talks had taken
place without rancour. "We didn't fall out," he said.
The Taoiseach had met Mr Paisley in his capacity as Free
Presbyterian Moderator in Dublin several years ago, but
yesterday was the first meeting in the Irish capital on
political business as DUP leader.
"We are working towards a settlement for all the people of
Northern Ireland and in so doing we wish to build a relationship
with our neighbours that is practically based rather than
politically motivated," Mr Paisley added.
"No-one has anything to fear from such an accountable
north-south relationship of equal partnerships."
Mr Paisley also insisted that the IRA must relinquish its guns
and be out of business for good.
He said the DUP had not seen any IRA offer, and had indicated to
Mr Ahern that "more work" will be needed in this area.
Mr Ahern said yesterday: "There are difficult issues to do with
the operation of the Good Friday Agreement which must be
resolved in a reasonable way.
"And we have to ensure a permanent end to IRA paramilitarism and
the decommissioning of its weapons."
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein vice-president Pat Doherty has again called
for the DUP to talk directly to his party.
"While we obviously welcome the visit of the DUP to Dublin and
the engagement with the Irish government, it is important that
they follow this change of direction up with direct dialogue
with Sinn Fein," Mr Doherty said.
"Direct and meaningful dialogue is the best way to ensure
progress and forward movement in the time ahead."
Also, Mr Doherty pointed out that the Irish government was, with
the British government, co-guarantors of the Good Friday
Agreement and it was crucial that they made clear that none of
the fundamental principles which underpin the agreement were up