N.I. Talks Show Slow Progress

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain.

By Frank Shouldice, Contributor
August / September 2006

Irish and British governments continue to decommissioning, but DUP leader Dr. Ian

push the November 24 deadline for power sharing in Northern Ireland, but there is little sign of actual progress on the ground. Unionist and nationalist parties have been unable to find a way to restore devolved gov- ernment at the N.I. Assembly, but Dublin and London hold the majority Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) chiefly responsible for stalling a return to devolution under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

The DUP and Sinn Féin represent the largest blocs of unionist and nationalist votes respectively, and progress depends on agreement between the two parties. Sinn Féin has already indicated it is pre- pared to share power with the DUP, but that offer has not been reciprocated.

Governments in Dublin and London are satisfied that the IRA has met demands on

Paisley wants greater proof that republicans are committed to decommissioning of arms, ending criminality and supporting the PSNI and legal system in Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin is unlikely to bow to any DUP demand for further concessions, and unless agree- ment is reached before November 24, the N.I. Assembly will be wound up and direct rule from London restored.

Dermot Ahern, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, met with Northern Secretary Peter Hain, reporting that both governments were “somewhat underwhelmed by the progress to date at the talks.”

He added that, “Both governments are adamant about the November 24 deadline and we expect people to come up to the mark. Ultimately, it’s a matter for them, but November 24th is sacrosanct.” ♦

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