St Andrews process seen struggling
British Direct Ruler Peter Hain is to include an election to the
Belfast Assembly in legislation he is introducing in London on Thursday
in preference to a potentially risky referendum vote.
Meanwhile, DUP leader Ian Paisley has continued to maintain a fixed
position on the issue, calling for an immediate declaration of support
by Sinn Fein for the PSNI police.
Following a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, he stressed
that it was a precondition for further progress.
"It is clear that Sinn Fein and the republican movement are reneging
and postponing the decisions they must take to support the police in
Northern Ireland," he said following the meeting.
"I have conveyed to the prime minister the view that there will have
be delivery from Sinn Fein on supporting the Police Service of Northern
Ireland, courts and the rule of law.
"Until this happens there will be no progress made."
In the St Andrews timetable, the Belfast Assembly is to meet on Friday
week to nominate Ian Paisley and Mr McGuinness in the designate posts
of First and Deputy First Minister respectively.
Failure to achieve this deadline would result in the dissolution of the
Assembly and the collapse of the agreement, Mr Hain again made clear at
the weekend, which would also mean there would be no elections.
A standoff is in place on this issue because the DUP wants Mr
McGuinness to take a pledge of office on November 24th committing
himself to supporting the PSNI, the courts and rule of law, even though
the governments' requirement for this pledge is March 26th when the
Executive and Assembly are scheduled to be fully reinstated.
Sinn Fein however, insists no such pledge can be taken ahead of a
special Sinn Fein ardfheis.
Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy has demanded that the two governments act
decisively and bring an end to the "time wasting and delays"
"dogged the process" since the St Andrews negotiations.
"They need to play their role," he said. "If the governments
serious about fulfilling the timetable they have set themselves then
they need call together a meeting of the Programme for Government
Committee. The real work needs to start.
"They need to make it crystal clear that the Assembly is going to
brought together on November 24th for the purpose of electing the First
and Deputy First Ministers. The St. Andrews document laid out a series
of deadlines to be met on the road to full restoration on March 26th
and it is now time for the governments to start delivering on these."
However, a hardline DUP MP has prompted further pessimism about the
prospects for progress in the North following an uncompromising speech
Willie McCrea's comments come as the governments agreed to carry forward
the process following the conditional support of Sinn Fein and the DUP
to the St Andrews proposals.
Willie McCrea said his party would only accept the devolution of
policing and justice powers from London to Belfast once it trusted Sinn
Fein "and not a day sooner".
He also said it was inconceivable for this to happen for many, many
years, "if indeed ever".
Mr McCrea also said "the democratic process" could not be corrupted
suit what he called "the warped and twisted Sinn Fein/IRA mindset".