18 January 2006

Sinn Féin and SDLP trade taunts

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
18 January 2006

Sinn Fein and the SDLP swapped blows last night over claims new political negotiations could dilute the Good Friday Agreement

Sinn Fein urged SDLP leader Mark Durkan to "come clean" over a potential downgrade of the power-sharing model worked under the Agreement.

But the SDLP accused Sinn Fein of handing the DUP an effective veto over the restoration of an Assembly and Executive.

The parties exchanged the taunts as speculation continued over attempts to reach a new consensus over administrative arrangements which would fall short of a full Executive.

Claiming the SDLP has been involved in discussions with unionists about structures outside the Agreement, Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy said: "Settling for less than power-sharing will reopen the prospect of a return to unionist party rule in the North. The SDLP must clarify where they stand.

"Any dilution of the power-sharing arrangements which underpin the Agreement will undermine efforts to bring about full restoration of the political institutions."

But former SDLP Executive Minister Sean Farren said: "The very manner in which Sinn Fein have conducted negotiations has effectively conceded a unionist veto on the restoration of the institutions.

"So long as they insist that an agreement between Sinn Fein and the DUP is a pre-requisite for restoration they will give the DUP a veto on the re-establishment of the Agreement's institutions.

"For the SDLP the goal is the full implementation and working of the Agreement. We have never put forward proposals as an alternative to the Agreement, only as an alternative to stalemate, suspension and Direct Rule."

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