ELECTIONS FAILURE 'COULD SIGNAL END FOR AGREEMENT'
Failure to hold elections soon in the Six Counties could spell
the end of the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Fein's Martin
McGuinness warned today. As he prepared for a meeting in
Dublin with Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, the Mid Ulster
MP insisted the Government must set a date for an Assembly
election this year if efforts to restore power-sharing were to
He said: "The election should have happened in May. It didn't.
"If the election was not to happen this year, I think that
would be politically disastrous. I think it would signal to
many people the end of the Good Friday Agreement because I
don't think people would have any confidence whatsoever, going
into a new year, that we would see elections, given the
situation we have seen since May of this year.
"We have seen the failure of the British Prime Minister (Tony
Blair) to follow the next logical step, when the lifetime of
the Assembly was over, by calling elections to the new
"So I think it will be politically disastrous for elections
not to take place this year and it would be an enormous
setback to the work we have all been engaged in over the
course of the last few years."
Mr Blair's decision to cancel elections was criticised by the
Irish Government, by politicians in the United States and a
range of parties in the North of Ireland. With speculation
mounting that an election could take place in November,
nationalists have in recent days stepped up pressure for an
election date. They have argued an Assembly poll could serve
as a deadline in the current efforts to break the political
deadlock. However neither London nor Dublin have been willing
to state definitively if there will be a poll this autumn.
Mr McGuinness said nationalists and republicans were still
waiting to see how Mr Blair was going to implement the
Agreement in the face of opposition from unionists and from
elements within the British establishment.
He said Sinn Fein, the Irish Government and the nationalist
SDLP had delivered "nationalist and republican Ireland" for
The former Stormont Education Minister added: "There has been
an abysmal failure on behalf of the British end of the
bargain, from the British Prime Minister and unionist leaders,
to deliver their contribution to the Agreement.
"What I want to see over the coming period is a recognition on
their behalf that they have to go in and bat for this
agreement, they have to fight for this and they have to face
down the rejectionists within the DUP and within David
Mr McGuinness said the setting of an election date would
create a new political momentum in the efforts to restore
Republicans, he said, had been involved in heavy negotiations
since the summer which he expected to further intensify in the
"It will be a matter of putting together a package, a
comprehensive agreement and everybody is going to fight their
corner," the Sinn Fein MP predicted.
"I understand that. The big question is whether there is a
willingness on all sides to bring about a set of political
arrangements which will see the peace process and the Good
Friday Agreement move forward.
"We need to see the restoration of the institutions - both
power-sharing in the north and all-Ireland in nature through
the North South Ministerial Council.
"Of course, every day people are listening to the ongoing
controversy over the Human Rights Commission and the fact that
it is broken and needs to be fixed. Three eminent people have
resigned and two others have withdrawn from the daily working
of the commission. This is a commission which is effectively
on its knees.
"So we need to correct the mistakes which have been made and
that essentially means dealing with all these issues. From our
perspective we intend to see that they are dealt with during
the course of the negotiations we are engaged in at the
Mr McGuinness also said his party wanted the policing issue
However he insisted that meant getting policing "right" by
fully implementing the Patten Commission's recommendations and
transferring policing and justice powers from Westminster to a
devolved administration at Stormont.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams is due to hold face-to-face
talks with Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble at Stormont
today. It will be the second time they have met over the past
week as efforts to restore power-sharing in the Six Counties
NEW COMMISSION CRITICISED
British Secretary of State Paul Murphy was today due to meet
his Irish government opposite number, foreign minister Brian
Cowen, while Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator Martin McGuiness was
also due to meet Mr Cowen in Dublin today.
The round of meetings followed the passage of legislation
through the House of Commons in London yesterday creating a
new four-member commission for monitoring paramilitary
cease-fires and the Good Friday Agreement.
Speaking in London, Sinn Fein North Belfast representative
Gerry Kelly was critical of the legislation being brought to
establish the Independent Monitoring Commission as "the result
of efforts by the British government to appease unionism
"Since it was first established it has been further modified
to meet the demands of the various unionist factions," he
said. "The principle difficulty with this Commission is the
fact that it gives power and authority to a British Minister
which fundamentally alters and is outside the terms of the
Good Friday Agreement.
"Sinn Fein has no problems with accountability, however we
will not support mechanisms which fall totally outside the
terms of the Agreement."
Mr Kelly was in London to support the candidacy of Kelly
McBride, who is standing in the Brent East by-election today
to highlight the continued injustices surrounding the murder
of her brother, Peter McBride, in North Belfast in 1992 by a
patrol of British soldiers.
He briefed cross-party MPs and the media in London on
Wednesday about the current situation with the peace process.
At a press conference, Mr Kelly stressed the urgent need to
call the Assembly elections: "Without doubt elections are a
matter of political principle. They are vital if we are to
create a new context - create a new dynamic - without that
there is no prospect of progress."
He added that setting a definitive date for elections was not
on its own enough. "We have to remember the last time Mr Blair
slapped republicans and the Taoiseach in the face by
cancelling elections." he said, adding that this created a "a
deep well of anger and frustration". He said even with an
election date "there is no guarantee of future initiatives
"Moving things forward is not just the responsibility of
republicans. There is a collective responsibility on all of
* Also in London, a group of British parliamentarians and
prominent individuals, including union representatives, Tom
Griffin, editor of the Irish World and actor Adrian Dunbar,
have put their names to a letter demanding that the British
government set the date of the poll for the elections "without
The signatories, including MPs Kevin McNamara, John McDonnell
and Baroness Harris of Richmond, are "gravely concerned that
the British government has acted unilaterally to suspend the
institutions and cancel planned elections to the Northern
Ireland Assembly with no date set for a new ballot".