TALKING SHOP OPPOSED
An attempt by the London and Dublin governments to form a Belfast
Assembly with significantly reduced powers is meeting strong
resistance from northern nationalists.
Some reports indicate that the plan has already been shelved as
Sinn Fein and the SDLP both poured cold water on the plans.
Following a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair in Downing
Street, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams cast doubt on whether the
new forum would work.
26-County Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony
Blair were expected to unveil a 'roadmap' that unionists and
nationalists believe would call for the establishment of a shadow
assembly with a target date for full devolution of powers from
London to Belfast.
A major announcement next Wednesday intended as a short-term
measure to fill the political vacuum created by the failure to
implement the 1998 Good Friday Agreement is not now expected to
In an indication of fresh concern by the Sinn Fein leadership at
the current direction of the peace process, Mr Adams told
reporters that his party would play no part in the proposed
Speaking in London, Mr Adams called the recall of the Stormont
Assembly, saying it was an outrage that it had not met in
"Our view is that the suspension of the assembly should be
lifted," he said.
"Quite quickly after that the mechanism to have an executive
elected should be triggered."
The Assembly, set up in 1998, was suspended in October 2002 amid
allegations of an "IRA spy ring" at the Assembly buildings.
Although the allegations were disproven following the outing of a
high-level informer within Sinn Fein, the two governments have
refused to recall the Asssembly in the face of opposition from
Ian Paisley's DUP.
Instead of "pandering to the DUP", Mr Adams said the two
governments "should give the DUP a choice - between
power-sharing, and the equality agenda, the resumption of
inter-governmentalism and the full implementation of all other
aspects of the Good Friday agreement".
Mr Adams said the onus was on London and Dublin "to show that the
process of change" would continue.
"The optimum is still power-sharing, with Ian Paisley as first
minister," he said. "But if he [ Dr Paisley] doesn't want that,
he's a consenting adult."
Asked if he was seeking to pressurise the DUP, Mr Adams said:
"The governments would make a mistake if they think we're
negotiating on this. It would be to ignore the stresses on the
Mr Adams said soon after Mr Blair reinstated the Assembly, the
mechanism to appoint an Executive should be triggered. In the
event of a failure to appoint an Executive, existing legislation
calls for fresh elections to be held to the Assembly within a six
Of the proposed alternative, Mr Adams said: "We're not against a
shadow Assembly because we're bloody-minded but because it won't
work. .. There is no possibility of the DUP coming on board if
they are being pandered to ... We won't be part of it.
"They [ the two governments] would just be tearing the Good
Friday agreement up. It cannot work unless we acquiesce, and we
The Taoiseach said he planned inclusive proposals in the spirit
of the Good Friday Agreement but that he and Mr Blair could not
wait for ever for all parties to sign up.
"If we can't bring everybody with us, then we have to make a call
and move on," said Mr Ahern.
"I'd still like to bring everybody with us but we can't wait
However, SDLP leader Mark Durkan also described plans for a new
forum as a "political misadventure".
Speaking after talks with Mr Ahern in Dublin, he said his party
opposed any attempt to legislate for aspects of an abortive 2004
deal which collapsed over DUP demands for the humiliation of the
Mr Durkan also called for a strict deadline for power-sharing so
that political parties could deliver on their mandates.
"If a date is set for restoration, parties would find themselves
inside institutions with legal powers vested in them and they
will have to show if they are up for it or not.
"Unless parties are faced with a definite deadline by which they
have responsibility for decisions they make, parties will
continue to use more delay, shadow-boxing and posturing."