29 June 2006 Edition
Forge ahead or bite the bullet
After six weeks of the Hain Assembly no political progress whatsoever has been made. The DUP has shown no interest in sharing power and has been allowed by the two governments to block progress towards a power sharing administration in the Six Counties and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
Public confidence in the political process has been badly eroded by the ongoing farce at Stormont and republicans are not prepared to give cover or credence to what amounts to a political charade.
Other parties in the Hain Assembly are being used by the DUP to bolster their aim of establishing a powerless Stormont talking shop. Sinn Féin will not allow itself to be similarly manipulated and the party's continued participation in the Assembly cannot be taken for granted.
Sinn Féin is now reviewing its approach to the Assembly and the outcome of its deliberations will very much depend on the actions and attitude of the Irish and British Governments in the coming days.
Next month will see the first anniversary of the IRA putting its arms beyond use and its announcement of an end to its armed campaign. These initiatives provided a huge opportunity for both governments and all pro-Agreement parties, to show the DUP that it cannot have a veto over the democratic will of the Irish people for political progress. That opportunity however, required political leaders to do their job and continue the forward momentum.
The Taoiseach and British Prime Minister now urgently need to reassert control over the political process. The DUP has stated publicity on numerous occasions that it couldn't care less about the 24 November deadline for political agreement set by the governments. The governments must therefore forge ahead with the re-establishment of the political institutions or else bite the bullet and close down the Assembly.
The next phase of the political process will be defined by what is said in Belfast this Thursday by Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair and by what they actually do in the coming weeks. Decisive action is called for. Soundbites, fudge or the illusion of progress will not suffice. The governments need now to set out in detail how they intend to move forward.