26 March 2006

Sinn Fein Leader Rebuffs Legislature Plan

Washington Post

By SHAWN POGATCHNIK
The Associated Press
Saturday, March 25, 2006; 11:26 PM

DUBLIN, Ireland -- Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, in a speech to senior members of his Irish Republican Army-linked party, said Saturday he would oppose a British-Irish plan to revive Northern Ireland's legislature unless it offers full power-sharing.

Foreshadowing an inevitable showdown with Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party on the issue, Adams said he was concerned that Britain and Ireland were about to recommend that Northern Ireland's legislature convene without a firm deadline for a Catholic-Protestant administration to be formed.

Such power-sharing _ the central aim of Northern Ireland's Good Friday peace accord of 1998 _ fell apart in October 2002 over an IRA spying scandal. Since then, the 108-member legislature has been mothballed. Any revived coalition would be jointly led by the Democratic Unionists, who represent most of the province's British Protestant majority, and Sinn Fein, which represents most Irish Catholics.

The British and Irish prime ministers, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, have spent years of diplomacy trying to bring Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists to an agreement. But Paisley insists his party will not share power with Sinn Fein unless the IRA disbands, something the outlawed group is unlikely to do.

Blair and Ahern's plan is expected to be made public in early April in Northern Ireland, and could contain a target for power-sharing to be revived by the end of 2006.

Under current power-sharing rules, an administration must be elected within six weeks of the legislature's formation, otherwise the legislature collapses. Paisley insists that, this time, the rules should be changed so that the legislature could operate without an administration for months, even years.

Adams said Sinn Fein was "resolutely opposed to any halfway house, in-between, transitional, interim or shadow Assembly."

He added that if Paisley's party was "not prepared to come on board with the rest of us _ if they insist to sticking with 'No!' _ then the governments and the rest of us must move ahead without them."

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