SQUARING THE CIRCLE
The Irish and British governments are presenting their formula
for a deal to the DUP and Sinn Fein later today [Wednesday] in
the hope of striking a deal involving a return of power-sharing
government in the North and a public move by the IRA to wind up
The DUP continues to refuse to hold direct talks with Sinn Fein.
A DUP delegation is expected to receive a copy of the proposals
in London from the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, while
Sinn Fein are to be given the paper in Dublin by the Irish Prime
The issue of IRA disarmament has proved the most controversial
issue, with the hardline unionist party demanding a public
display of disarmament as a symbolic victory over the IRA.
It is being reported that the two governments are hoping that
"visual evidence" of IRA arms decommissioning -- in photograph
or video form -- could be released at a future date.
Such photographs would most likely be released when it was clear
that the DUP was taking part in the institutions of the Good
Friday Agreement. The images, which would inevitably emerge
into the public domain, could then be viewed on the internet.
Another proposal, more acceptable to republicans, calls
for representatives from the Catholic and Protestant churches to
join General John de Chastelain in overseeing and verifying
future acts of IRA disarmament.
The DUP's Gregory Campbell said that if churchmen were present,
it would represent "some progress".
But he insisted: "We need to have credible and viable
decommissioning and there needs to be a visual aspect to it if
we are to give confidence to the community.
"There was a failure to do that in the past."
Attempts by the DUP to limit nationalist influence in a revived
administration remains another source of considerable
The governments' proposals are expected to tackle this issue by
making ministers in the devolved administration more
"accountable" to the other community. Fears have been expressed
that this could create deadlock in the governance of the Six
The paper may also include a proposal to elect the First and
Deputy First Minister and their ministers at the same time -- to
save the DUP the potential embarrassment of voting for a Sinn
A Sinn Fein spokesman described the reports as speculation and
refused to comment further.
He said: "We have consistently refused to comment in any way on
the detail of discussions with the Government. In particular we
have refused to get involved in any speculation that has existed
around the issue of arms."
Earlier, Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy said that any proposals coming
from the two governments aimed at breaking the current impasse
in the process 'had to be grounded in the fundamentals of the
Good Friday Agreement'.
"The reason we have not achieved a comprehensive deal is the
DUPs continued opposition to the fundamentals of the Good Friday
Agreement," he said. "In particular they have targeted its
all-Ireland and the power sharing core.
"If there is going to be a deal then that deal can only be based
on the framework provided by the Good Friday Agreement. There
can be no other way."
The presentation of the proposals will herald a week of intense
discussions. If there is still no agreement in sight, the talks
could be suspended until the New Year.
* At the annual conference of Republican Sinn Fein at the
weekend, party president Ruairi O Bradaigh again insisted that
any move by the Provisional IRA to decommission its remaining
weapons would be akin to accepting British rule in Ireland.
* At his party's annual conference, also at the weekend, Ulster
Unionist David Trimble accused the DUP of "flip-flopping" on
the peace process. There was no sign of internal feuding,
apart from the early departure from the conference of hardliner
* Belfast deputy mayor, Sinn Fein's Joe O'Donnell, has announced
he is to quit local government. He said he had made the
decision after discussing the matter with family and friends,
but that he would remain active in the party.