Flash: Adams and Paisley to meet
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and DUP leader Ian Paisley will hold
their first ever face-to-face talks today as parties are faced with a
deadline for the restoration of the Six-County political institutions,
or, more likely, an agreement to suspend the process for a number of
weeks at the request of the DUP.
Parties sources the two will meet in a committee room at Stormont
Parliament Buildings for their first direct negotiation beginning
mid-morning Irish time. The DUP leader has always refused to hold
direct talks with republicans.
The high-wire negotiations are necessary because of the DUP's refusal
to meet today's deadline for the appointment of an Executive of
Ministers following from the Assembly election earlier this month.
Defending their call for a further delay, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson
said yesterday that "there were outstanding issues to be resolved".
"We need to have a further testing to ensure Sinn Fein's commitment
the rule of law and to negotiate a [larger] financial package," he
Sinn Fein has said all parties, including the two governments, must
abide by the timetable set out in the St Andrews Agreement. The party
has fulfilled all its commitments in the Agreement, including a highly
controversial change of policy to support the British PSNI police.
However, Mr Adams on Saturday left open the possibility that the DUP
could today win the support of the other parties for another delay,
despite scepticism that furthrer delsay could be undermine the
Events today remain unpredictable and a difficult negotiation lies
ahead for both Adams and Paisley, as well as the other main parties,
Mark Durkan's SDLP and Reg Empey's UUP.
A full meeting of the Belfast Assembly for nominating ministers is due
to take place at noon, but British officials have warned this should
be averted in order to avoid a 'crash'.
If no deal is reached by midnight tonight, the newly-elected Assembly
will certainly 'crash'. At this point the two governments -- if
previous statements are to be believed -- will finally move to
implement all-Ireland partnership arrangements for the administration
of the North.
British Direct Ruler Peter Hain repeated this morning that if there
was no agreement by the end of today then the Assembly would be
dissolved. "That is that," he said.
Agreement on a new date for power-sharing would prompt the British
government to push through emergency legislation at the London
parliament. Plans to introduce controversial water charges in the
North would also likely be put on hold, a common goal of all the
Last night Mr Adams said it was vital that the current intense talks
delivered the political institutions which people voted for in the
election on March 7.
"Otherwise, additional water charges and other punitive and unfair
measures will be introduced by unaccountable British Direct Rule
ministers," the West Belfast MP warned.
"If the DUP remains unwilling or unable to reach an agreement with
Sinn Fein and the other parties then the (British and Irish)
Governments have to move ahead with their all-Ireland partnership