Smoke and mirrors' Assembly
Sinn Fein remains opposed to reported plans from London and
Dublin for the restoration of an Assembly at Stormont with
initially limited powers and a target date for the appointment of
a powersharing executive.
The nationalist SDLP has also warned London and Dublin against
any proposal which would see British Direct Rule ministers
working alongside an Assembly in the place of an inclusive
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams confirmed he had yet to see the
detail of the proposal which Mr Ahern and British prime minister
Tony Blair are now expected to reveal during a visit to Belfast
early next month.
Confirming that Sinn Fein remains in daily contact with both
governments, Mr Adams said he imagined the proposed blueprint was
still "a work in progress".
Mr Adams told reporters that nothing has changed in respect of
Sinn Fein's opposition to any plan to allow the Assembly to
function in a cosmetic manner -- whether called "shadow" or
"transitional" -- without the inclusive executive prescribed
the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Adams also observed that new British legislation would be
required to permit the Assembly to function in a reduced role,
and asked: "For what? So that the Orange marching season can
Mr Adams repeated his view that the Assembly should be summoned
in advance of the marching season and given the six weeks defined
in statute to form an executive.
Failure after that time should see the Assembly closed down, said
Mr Adams: "That's it."
Asserting that there was "no point in the governments withdrawing
proposals a month ago and restyling it now", Mr Adams again
warned London and Dublin against pandering to Ian Paisley's
Democratic Unionist Party.
"They want to play this long and they should not be assisted to
And he maintained his alternative agenda -- for Dublin and London
to share responsibilities in the Six Counties, including their
outstanding commitments under the Good Friday Agreement -- was
not designed to put pressure on Ian Paisley's DUP.
The DUP have called for the Assembly to meet during an undefined
'decontamination' period before sharing power with republicans.
Under the terms of the Agreement, the Assembly can meet for six
weeks before the d'Hondt mechanism to elect the Ministerial
Executive is required to produce a resolution. It has been
reported that the two governments are working on "a device"
prolong the period during which the Assembly can meet beyond
Meeting in the margins of the European summit today, Bertie Ahern
and Tony Blair are undersood to be hoping that, once set up, Sinn
Fein will shy away from withdrawing from the "shadow" Assembly.
Such an action would certainly result in accusations of
intransigence or "self-exclusion" against Sinn Fein and could
feasibly be a precursor for a quick Assembly election intended to
promote the rival nationalist SDLP.
Confusion over the governments' plans was not helped yesterday
when SDLP leader Mark Durkan welcomed what he claimed was the
apparent rejection by the two governments of the proposed recall
of the Assembly in "shadow" form.
However, he urged the governments "not to go only halfway towards
real restoration" of the institutions established under the Good
"From what the governments have said so far, it appears that they
want the direct rulers to act as ministers in the devolved
assembly," said Mr Durkan.
"That is not good enough. For the SDLP there is no acceptable
level of direct rule. Direct rule, by the front door or the back
door, must end for good."