14 February 2006

Alliance snubs SDLP 'links' paper

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
14 February 2006

The Alliance Party today dismissed an SDLP blueprint for stronger cross-border links as "irrelevant".

But Sinn Fein welcomed the 24-page paper and said there was now a clear consensus between it and the SDLP on many issues.

Senior SDLP negotiator Sean Farren, co-author of the North South Makes Sense report, said he welcomed feedback, including indications of where his party's plans are seen as weak.

After the document was unveiled at seperate press conferences in Belfast and Dublin, Alliance said the Dundalk bypass had done more for cross-border co-operation than any amount of quangoes.

Alliance leader David Ford said: "Cross-border co-operation is not about daft arguments over whether a meaningless council motion or an irrelevant 24-page document is the best way to promote work on an all-island basis.

"Nor is it about denying the reality of our geographical position. It is about realistic, responsible and radical proposals designed to ensure that cross-border cooperation delivers practical results that people notice."

Mr Ford argued that the vast majority of practical cross-border cooperation has nothing to do with government institutions.

"Something as basic as the Dundalk bypass did far more practically for cross-border trade than any amount of quangoes or divisive posturing in council chambers," he added.

Sinn Féin general secretary Mitchel McLaughlin said the Irish and British governments must now deliver on the growing consensus on the development and expansion of the all Ireland agenda.

"Peter Hain recognises the need to move ahead on the all Ireland agenda. (Irish Foreign Minister) Dermot Ahern has called for the development of infrastructural, economic and social structures on an all-Ireland basis.

"Sinn Féin has long called for this approach by both governments. We've had enough rhetoric and promises. It's now time for action. I look forward to working with the two governments, the SDLP and others in delivering on this agenda."

The SDLP called for PSNI and Garda to staff an all-Ireland intelligence agency and an all-island Criminal Assets Bureau.

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