NO TO ASSEMBLY SHAM
Sinn Fein has said it is not willing to take part in an Assembly
if there is no prospect of having an Executive up and running by
Speaking to journalists in Dublin yesterday, ahead of a meeting
with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Government Ministers on Thursday,
Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said the two
governments should scrap the Assembly in the summer if Ian
Paisley's DUP are still refusing to agree to the election of the
first and deputy first ministers and the Executive.
Mr Ahern is expected to meet British prime minister Tony Blair in
Armagh on April 6th when they will publish the British and Irish
governments plans to reactivate the Assembly.
On Sunday, British Direct Ruler Peter Hain said the political
process was reaching "a crunch time".
Mr Hain said plans to "bridge the gap" between unionists who
a "shadow" assembly stripped of powers and nationalists who
oppose this would be announced within weeks.
He warned the gate "at the end of that bridge" would either
to devolved government" -- with powers being returned from London
to Belfast -- or close, meaning political allowances and salaries
Reports indicate that the Assembly is to be brought back prior to
the summer to provide a sense of political progress ahead of the
combustible Protestant marching season. After six weeks, the
Assembly would be suspended in order to avoid a fresh election,
described this week by the British government as "a get-out
New legislation would the be introduced over the summer to lay
the framework for a committee-based forum, to meet at Stormont,
which would provide input for British Ministers and allow wages
to continue to be paid to northern politicians. It has also been
proposed that, in the event that no agreement is reached on
power-sharing, the forum would be scrapped.
Yesterday Mr McGuinness reiterated Sinn Fein's opposition to such
a move in strong terms, saying he did not believe "there can be
any halfway house between a DUP 'no' position in the summer and a
DUP 'no' position in the autumn".
"The reality is that the DUP is now isolated in some never-never
land and the sooner the governments effectively tell, not just
the DUP but everybody else that the only way forward is the full
implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, the better," he
His party's position was for the governments to reconvene the
Assembly before the summer, and "make the effort to elect the
first minister and the deputy first minister and the Executive".
"If the DUP are not prepared to play their part in all of that,
then the two governments should just get on with it. The Assembly
should effectively be abolished, the wages should be stopped and
the two governments should press on with the all-Ireland agenda."
"Let Ian Paisley explain that to the unionist people because we
know there are huge numbers of unionists in northern Ireland who
want to see these institutions up as quickly as possible."
He said Sinn Fein was prepared to examine the proposals the
governments would make next week, but indicated that if they were
similar to the proposals of a few weeks ago for the establishment
of a shadow Executive, they would be rejected.
"We will look at whatever the governments have put forward but
there's no sort of sensible reason for coming forward with a
repackaged proposal from the one that you saw and that's been
rejected a few weeks ago. So we're not for a shadow Assembly
simply because it's not going to work," said Mr McGuinness.