2 November 2006 Edition
DUP need to meet with Sinn Féin to resolve outstanding issues
Political parties from the Six Counties met in London this week with British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, in relation to a British Government investment in a peace dividend. Meanwhile contacts between Sinn Féin and both the Irish and British Governments continued in relation to the restoration of political institutions following the negotiations at St Andrews. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams met British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London on Wednesday and is due to meet Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
The decision by Ian Paisley and the DUP to pull out of a scheduled meeting of the Programme for Government Committee earlier this month was a political setback and highlighted the considerable challenges to be faced in moving rejectionist unionism fully into the peace process and acceptance of a shared political future. But it would be an even bigger setback and a major political mistake for the British Government not to recall that committee. This they have so far failed to do and, as a result, a vacuum has been created over the past number of weeks.
Dialogue between Sinn Féin and the DUP is vital to resolving the remaining outstanding issues. Meetings of the Programme for Government Committee are an essential part of moving the process forward and key to resolving some of the core issues including policing. It is time for the British government to convene a meeting of the Programme for Government Committee and begin resolving those issues.
Sinn Féin is busily consulting among its party membership in relation to the proposals put forward by both governments following the recent political negotiations at St Andrews. A key political issue which needs to be resolved is the issue of the transfer of power on policing and justice away from Westminster and an agreement on the departmental model within a Six County Executive.
Sinn Féin has consistently argued that the transfer of power to locally accountable political representatives is a key to the transformation of policing. Both the Irish and British governments have indicated that they support this position. These are all issues that can be resolved if the DUP engage genuinely and directly with Sinn Féin and the sooner the better.
Comments this week by the DUP's Nigel Dodds seek to put obstacles in the way of finding agreement. As Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly pointed out, it is not practical to try and kick the issue of policing into touch. It needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
The transfer of powers will happen and the best way forward now is for the DUP to sit down with Sinn Féin to work out the detail of the timetable and the departmetal model.