17 February 2006

DUP 'Taking Control Of Political Calendar'- Says Durkan

Derry Journal

Friday 17th February 2006

Mark Durkan has accused the Irish and British governments of allowing the DUP to take "control of the political calendar." The Foyle MP's remarks follow his meeting with British prime minister Tony Blair at Downing Street on Wednesday.

Mr. Durkan told the 'Journal' last night: "Every time the governments say that they will not or can not set a date for restoring the institutions without a prior agreement, they are, in effect, telling the DUP that they will only restore them at a time and on terms that suits them. Of course, this isn't new. "The negotiations in late 2004 and the so-called Comprehensive Agreement by the two governments, the DUP and SF, told the DUP this as well. "That agreement involved returning to a shadow Assembly and things would have moved on only when the DUP was content. "Those who conceded this to the DUP, along with various changes to the Good Friday Agreement, did so claiming that the DUP was on for powersharing and North-South co-operation. "We argued the folly of this attitude by the two governments and Sinn Fein while they kept saying that the DUP was 'up for a deal'. Their mistaken attitude has fed the DUP's arrogance and I believe that even they are now starting to recognise this." The two governments, says Mr. Durkan, now need to let all the parties know that their talk of a "timeline" actually "means something more than idle spin."
He added: "They can't seriously continue to talk about a timeline while, at the same time, refusing to set a date for the restoration of all the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. "Indeed, Peter Hain is sending dangerously confused signals when he talks of the government's determination to move things on while simultaneously arguing against a date for restoration and then indulging the DUP suggestion of just having the Assembly in shadow mode.
"Both governments need to tell the DUP that Unionism got an effective veto on the institutions while the IRA refused to decommission and continued its activities - but that this has now gone. "They can tell the DUP that, under the Agreement, there are some vetoes that they will have inside the institutions but that they no longer have a veto on those institutions." Mr. Durkan revealed that, during this week's Downing Street talks, he made it clear that the SDLP does not accept the Comprehensive Agreement, of December 2004, as the "road map" for the future. "We never agreed the changes to the Good Friday Agreement that the two governments and Sinn Fein were prepared to concede in that document. These include drive-by vetoes on the Executive authority of nationalist ministers, a gross departure from democratic inclusion, and the stymieing of North South co-operation. "The DUP seem to believe that it can take all those erosions of the Agreement as givens and still stall things now. "The two governments and Sinn Fein need to make it clear that the so-called Comprehensive Agreement is dropped and that their position has returned to the Good Friday Agreement proper."

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