Talks for pre-election deal go 'down to the wire'
The Sinn Fein president, Mr Gerry Adams, has warned that
unionists and the two governments "have set the bar too high"
Demands were being made of republicans, he said, while the
British and Irish governments were in breach of the agreement.
He said that the political process would be in deep trouble if
a way out of the impasse was not found.
Mr Adams was speaking following his latest meeting with Ulster
Unionist leader David Trimble.
Parties are currently involved in a hectic round of meetings
at a critical stage in efforts to secure the return of
power-sharing institutions in the North and the full
implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Bilateral talks involving the British and Irish governments
and the parties are expected in Belfast, London and Dublin
The negotiations appear to have hit a serious snag with the
effective rejection on Friday by the UUP of the Joint
Declaration, the plan drawn up by the two governments earlier
this year for the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
There is increasing speculation that the overdue Assembly
elections could be called without a new deal for power-sharing
in place, but would be followed by a formal Review of the Good
The preferred date for an election remains Thursday, November
13th, which means it must be called by next week, to allow the
electoral office prepare for the poll.
Mr Adams cautioned that putting off the twice-cancelled
Assembly election would be to wave goodbye to this phase of
"My big concern at the moment is that the two governments and
the Ulster Unionist Party have set the bar too high... right
outside the agreement," Mr Adams said.
Mr Adams said the UUP, as a result of its executive resolution
on the joint declaration, meant that the rejectionists and
other wings of the party had joined to move backwards and away
from elements such as the Human Rights Commission, the
Equality Commission, justice issues and other matters at the
core of the agreement.
He complained that there was not a commitment to sustained
"We need to have our heads around just how difficult the
process is at this time. We continue to work at it," Mr Adams
Asked whether he believed he could make progress with Mr
Trimble over the next few days, he replied: "We all are
subject to this business of going down to the wire.
"The Sinn Fein case has been transparent. We have said from
the beginning that we are prepared to play our part and we are
prepared to stretch beyond ourselves and beyond our
commitments under the agreement but we cannot do any of that
in the absence of a date certain, publicly promulgated, for an
Mr Adams said the process could still be delivered but there
was only so much one party could do on its own.
"There are just so many difficulties being raised," he said.
"Last Friday the rejectionist unionists had their way.
"I look at the Ulster Unionist resolution and read through it
and see rejection of element after element after element of
the Good Friday Agreement.
"I then read demands... but the UUP wants to see the IRA going
away and Sinn Fein's peace strategy is to achieve that
objective. At the same time as they want that to happen they
are against the British army going away and they want to see
the RIR retained. It just doesn't make sense.
"How do nationalists read that? Unionists want the IRA to
disappear on the one hand but they want a small, locally
recruited militia to be maintained and they want the British
army to stay in Crossmaglen, in Carrickmore or wherever else
it is throughout the six counties. This is madness."
However, Mr Trimble blamed republicans, accusing the IRA of
failing to decommission completely within two years and
Mark Durkan, leader of the rival nationalist SDLP, said he was
confident that there would be an assembly election.
Speaking before his meeting with the British Prime Minister in
London today, he said: "I think the Prime Minister will feel
that even in the absence of a deal or a clear cut position
there is going to be no grounds for further postponing an
However, the Irish Prime Minister warned of a "total mess" if
agreement among the Northern parties and the Irish and British
governments is not finalised.
Bertie Ahern told the Irish parliament in Dublin yesterday:
"We have not as yet got to a position where we have the basis
of an agreement where we can say that we can move into
"The difficulty is if we don't approve this in the next period
of time we could get into an election situation that would
just lead to no progress and everybody fighting the elections
on a negative position."
Meanwhile, United States President George W Bush's special
envoy to the Six Counties Richard Haass, will travel to the
North next week as efforts to revive devolution intensify. It
is expected that Mr Haass will hold a round of meetings with
the various parties on October 13-14.