16 March 2006

US envoy turns up heat on Paisley over SF talks

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
16 March 2006

The US special envoy to Northern Ireland Mitchell Reiss has increased the focus on the DUP over its refusal to hold direct talks with Sinn Fein.

As the stateside St Patrick's events moved towards a climax, UUP leader Sir Reg Empey also criticised the DUP for staying away. Only Ian Paisley Jnr is in Washington, as a member of the Policing Board.

Mr Reiss told a Congressional committee that the DUP's refusal to work with Sinn Fein was preventing progress on policing.

He said: "Sinn Fein is worried that the DUP may never enter into a government with it. If that is the case, if the DUP will never negotiate directly with Sinn Fein, why should Gerry Adams take the difficult step to have his party endorse the police service, a step some of his followers oppose?"

In a report to the House of Representatives sub-committee on international relations, Mr Reiss added despite all the progress over the past year, the DUP still harboured doubts on whether Sinn Fein and the IRA are truly committed to democracy.

But Gerry Adams and the entire Sinn Fein leadership deserved "enormous credit" for moving the republican movement in this direction pointed up by the Independent Monitoring Commission, he said.

His comments came after Secretary of State Peter Hain warned the DUP would have to talk to Sinn Fein "sooner rather than later" and firmly rejected DUP calls for Sinn Fein to be excluded from a future Assembly.

Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty said he hoped Mr Hain's remarks marked an end to Government "pandering" to the DUP but must now be followed up with action.

DUP leader Mr Paisley, however, said the only way into government of Northern Ireland was "for everyone to commit to exclusively peaceful and democratic means".

SDLP leader Mark Durkan, meanwhile, referred to criticism by Mr Reiss of the DUP and Ulster Unionists in dismissing Mr Adams' criticism of US policy towards his party as biased. He said: "Let's remember Mitchell Reiss called the UUP and DUP leadership short over the Whiterock parade. I don't see how the US government has been partisan."

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