Flash: Govts postpone joint declaration at last minute
The British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern have dramatically pulled out of their planned meeting at
Hillsborough Castle outside Belfast today to unveil their joint
declaration on the full implementation of the Good Friday
Just hours before the leaders were due to arrive, London and
Dublin reported problems.
"There are still a few outstanding issues that have to be
resolved," an Irish government source said. Some suspect that
David Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party has raised last minute
objections to the proposals.
Blair and Ahern would now meet in London later this afternoon to
review the situation, it has emerged.
"The continuing discussions between the governments and the
pro-agreement parties have led the governments to conclude that
sufficient progress has not yet been made which would allow the
holding of the meeting," said a statement from Blair's Downing
The situation now appears to be fluid, with uncertainty over
what happens next.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP responding to the news, called
on the two governments to publish the Joint Declaration and their
other public commitments now.
"Sinn Fein has put a huge effort into these negotiations, he
said. The people are entitled to know what has been negotiated.
The people are entitled to know what the governments intend to
The SDLP, DUP and Women's Coaltion have also urged the two
governments to reveal their proposals.
Speaking before the news broke at a press conference to mark the
fifth calendar anniversary of April 10 1998, when the Good Friday
Agreement was signed, Mr Adams said that the historici deal was
"the culmination of an enormous collective effort by the two
governments and the parties to tackle the causes of conflict.
"It was about change - fundamental and deep-rooted change across
all aspects of society.
"The Agreement with its new institutions, including its
all-Ireland structures, was voted for by the overwhelming
majority of people on this island. It had and continues to hold
the promise of a new beginning for everyone.
The West Belfast MP said the Sinn Fein focus in the last five
years had been to see the Agreement implemented, and to deal with
all of the issues, including that of arms.
"There has been significant progress. In the limited time that
the institutions existed they worked and were very popular.
Clearly things are much better today than they were 5 or 10 years
"However, the reality is that the Good Friday Agreement has not
been implemented in full."
He said Sinn Fein had been addressing this failure in its
discussions with the two governments and the other parties, and
that considerable progress on a number of specific areas. These
included policing, crimiinal justice, and the stability of the
institutions, demilitarisation, human rights and equality.
"But critical issues remain," said Adams. "These include,
transfer of power on policing and justice and the suspended
status of the institutions and the absence of any clear
commitment from the Ulster Unionist Party that it will work the
institutions in a sustainable way. There is also the attempt to
introduce sanctions against Sinn Fein, which are clearly outside
the terms of the Agreement. This is unacceptable.
"However, we continue to engage on these issues.
"There is also a lot of focus in the media about what the IRA is
going to do. I am not going to speculate on that but I do want to
remind everyone that all of the issues in the Good Friday
Agreement are issues of entitlements and rights - not subject to
precondition by governments, political parties or armed groups,
This time five years ago the Good Friday Agreement would have
been seen as an impossible achievement. Five years on let us not
underestimate the progress that has been made.
"Sinn Fein will judge any proposals published by the two
governments on whether they implement fully and in good faith the
Good Friday Agreement.
"This party has not strayed one comma from the Agreement in our
call for its implementation by the two governments. In calling on
them to fully implement the Agreement we are asking them to do
what they undertook to do five years ago. It is now once again
hand of history time."