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4 February 2010 Edition

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Time for decisive leadership in the DUP

Republicans have been locked in negotiations with the DUP and the Irish and British governments in Hillsborough Castle for the past week. These negotiations have now concluded.
Sinn Féin went into these negotiations with clear objectives. On one hand an early date for the transfer of powers on policing and justice was a priority. On the other hand was the fundamental issue of ensuring that the DUP operate into the future the all-Ireland political institutions on the basis of partnership and equality.
There are also other issues outstanding from St. Andrews on equality, the Irish language and the all-Ireland political architecture, which require implementation and formed part of the negotiations.
Unionists, at the behest of the Orange Order, attempted to make the abolition of the Parades Commission a precondition for the transfer of policing and justice powers. This approach was never going to work. We all want to see a resolution to the issue of contentious parades and republicans are committed to this. But not as a precondition or worse – the linkage of citizens’ rights and entitlements to an Orange parade through a nationalist community.
Sinn Féin negotiators emerged from the discussions optimistic that the basis for further progress has been achieved.
However, all eyes will now shift onto the DUP and their leader, Peter Robinson. There have been reports of internal unrest and divisions. That is not unexpected. Throughout this entire Peace Process there have been points where political unionism has been faced with a choice  – they can work with their republican and nationalist neighbours in a spirit of partnership and equality or they can waste time and energy attempting to hold back the process of change.
This is a time for decisive political leadership. There are those within the DUP who are completely opposed to power sharing and to equality. But they are a dwindling minority.
If Peter Robinson acts positively in the coming days and he brings his party on board for partnership and equality within the institutions and an early date for transferring powers on policing and justice, he will find a willing partner in Martin McGuinness, as they together begin the task of delivering for ordinary citizens as the joint and co-equal leaders of the Six-County Executive.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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