Talks breakthrough possible - McGuinness
The Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness, has said if
the DUP's Devolution Now document is a negotiating rather than
a "bottom line" position, then it is possible that devolution
can be restored.
The document was presented to the parties involved in the
ongoing review of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The review,
which only met three times, is now on a two-week break.
Mr McGuinness, however, said that he suspected the DUP's
proposals contained a concealed mechanism to restore majority
unionist rule, and that he did not accept that the party had
signed up to proper power-sharing with nationalists and
He focused on one of the DUP's three models for devolution -
the mandatory coalition model - which would come into effect
if the IRA gave up its arms and ended activity.
Mr McGuinness said he saw a potential booby-trap in mandatory
coalition as the DUP's paper states that this model ensures
that "ultimate power would rest with the Executive as opposed
to the individual departments".
Previously, individual ministers in the last executive had
some autonomy that allowed them make decisions for their
respective departments free of normal collective cabinet
Mr McGuinness feared this was a ruse whereby unionist
ministers, by having a majority of six against four in the
cabinet, effectively could exercise unionist control.
He said Sinn Fein also opposed the DUP proposal where, failing
a majority of nationalist and unionist politicians adopting
particular key motions, 70 per cent of the assembly could pass
such motions. This effectively could exclude Sinn Fein.
Both these proposals were unacceptable to Sinn Fein. "But if
these are negotiating rather than bottom-line positions, then
perhaps business can be done," said Mr McGuinness.
"These are matters that have to be explored in the review,"
said, insisting that the essence of the Good Friday Agreement
must not be undermined.
Mr McGuinness said it was also a key issue for Sinn Fein that
the DUP should deal with Sinn Fein in face-to-face talks,
rather than through the British and Irish governments.
"Unionism cannot be allowed to paralyse the peace process and
the implementation of the Good Friday agreement. If the DUP
are serious about reaching accommodation with nationalists,
they must recognise that this can only be done by speaking to
Sinn Fein, who represent the majority of nationalists."
Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist Party has criticised the DUP's devolution
blueprint and said Sinn Fein would be "foolish" to reject it.
Senior UUP negotiator Sir Reg Empey said some of the DUP's
proposals for a new Assembly would let republicans off the
decommissioning hook by allowing a form of devolved government
to continue at Stormont.