STALEMATE AS GOVTS BLOCK IMPLEMENTATION PLAN
Fresh uncertainty has arisen over the British government's
intention to fully implement the 1998 Good Friday Agreement
following its failure to make a promised declaration containing
an implementation plan at Hillsborough Castle outside Belfast
The British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern had been expected to finally unveil their implementation
plan to end five years of political wrangling between the
political parties and the two governments over broken promises on
policing reform, demilitarisation and human rights.
However, the plan was changed at the last minute, and the
international media which had gathered outside Hillsborough
Castle was instead briefed that the IRA was to blame.
Although the IRA was not a signatory of the Good Friday
Agreement, an attempt was made to make it the scapegoat for the
governments' failure to implement the Agreement. The media was
told the IRA was planning what was described as an inadequate
response to their implentation plan.
Bertie Ahern then travelled to London for further talks before
joining Tony Blair ar a joint press conference at Downing Street
The two leaders said they had worked "immensely hard" on the
implementation document. "There are outstanding issues," Blair
conceded. "The two governments are in complete agreement,
however, about the right way forward."
Clarity and certainty was needed to move the peace process
forward, they insisted.
Mr Blair said he and Mr Ahern would be in contact with the
pro-agreement parties overnight and that the deadlock could be
overcome. Time is urgent, Mr Blair said, although difficulties
could be "ironed out".
Responding to the Mr Blair and Mr Ahern, Sinn Fein Chairperson
Mitchel McLaughlin MLA said that, on the fifth anniversary of the
Good Friday Agreement, one thing was beyond dispute -- the
Agreement had not been implemented in full.
"The two governments should now tell us how they intend to
implement the Agreement," he said.
"The Taoiseach and Prime Minister have spoken about clarity and
certainty. They should publish the Joint Declaration immediately
to ensure that there is clarity and certainty on the two
governments' position. This would allow everyone to make their
own judgements on this."
He said that critical issues remain to be resolved, including a
timeframe for the transfer of power on policing and justice, the
suspension of the institutions, the absence of any clear
commitment from the Ulster Unionist Party that it will work the
institutions in a sustainable way; and the attempt to introduce
sanctions against Sinn Fein, which he said were clearly outside
the terms of the Agreement.
Nationalists are aware that the publication of the implementation
plan does not in intself represent an "act of completion" as
provides no real commitment or assurance that the British
government will fulfil the promises outlined. They will recall
previous joint declarations whcih have proven worthless in the
past as British political will to wring changes in the North of
Ireland faded in the face of unionist intransigence.
Indeed, much of the ongoing negotiations are dedicated to undoing
the damage wreaked on the Good Friday Agreement by former British
Secretary of State Peter Mandelson and his legislation to dilute
policing reform and suspend the North's political institutions.
'Certainty' is one theme which will have arisen in talks today
between Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP, the party's Chief
Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP and US Ambassador Richard Haas
Mr Adams said he believed that Mr Haas was "very familiar" with
all of the issues and the difficulties confronting the
"Sinn Fein's focus in on making the Good Friday Agreement work -
of getting it implemented in full," said Mr Adams. "That is
we collectively agreed five years ago. That is what people
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, who briefed party members
on the situation at a meeting of his executive, accused
republicans of holding the peace process "to ransom".
But Mr Adams said that there were no new negotiations taking
"Our discussions with the two governments on the measures needed
to implement the Agreement are in my view now finished. There
are critical issues, which have yet to be properly dealt with.
"But in our discussions with the governments we told them several
days ago that the negotiations are concluded. There is now,
therefore, no reason or excuse for the governments to delay the
publication of their plan - their Joint Declaration - setting out
how they intend to complete the full implementation of the Good
Friday Agreement. Then let others respond to it, including the
armed groups, including the IRA."
"But we should not lose sight of what this is about. It is about
implementing an Agreement that guarantees peoples rights and
entitlements. These are not concessions to be given or held at
the behest or veto of any one else, whether a government, a
political party or an armed group."
Mr Haas said after the talks that "acts of completion" were
needed and unionists had to be reassured.
"We need statements as well as deeds that clearly both symbolise
and truly reflect changes in the situation on the ground," he
He said he had urged Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness "to use their
influence to try and persuade the IRA to say and do things that
would mark an historic transformation in the situation.
"I also urged Gerry Adams in his capacity as president of Sinn
Fein to say things which resonate with rank-and-file unionists."
Mr Haas added that time was "of the essence".
"There is good reason to feel some urgency, and I urge them to do
everything within their political power to persuade people in the
IRA leadership to do what I think needs doing," he added.
Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness will hold a meeting with Bertie
Ahern in Dublin tomorrow [Saturday] while British government
spokespersons in Belfast and Dublin confirmed discussions are
continuing to break the latest impasse in the peace process.
"It is looking like the timing is just not right," a British
spokesman confirmed. "However we are not giving up hope. We would
hope to be able to resolve this by the weekend."