Irish Republican News, May 12, 2006
The next few months are a critical and important period for the peace process in the North of Ireland.
Overview on the positions of the different parties:
Shadow of the Belfast Assembly
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has said he will nominate DUP leader
Ian Paisley as First Minister and his own party's chief negotiator
Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister when the Belfast Assembly is
reconvened on Monday.
Under the standing orders of the Assembly, both the First Minister and
Deputy First Minister must be elected together as part of the election
of the power-sharing Executive.
However, with the DUP still refusing to speak to Sinn Fein, much less
share power, the process is certain to fail. The DUP reject the
announcement as "a gimmick".
Monday's political reunion is expected to mark the first of six uneasy
weeks of a controversial "transitional assembly" before the summer
break. Television coverage of politicians at Stormont is intended to
remove the sense of political vacuum ahead of the contentious
Protestant marching season.
However, it is hoped the process will culminate in November with the
return of local, devolved power-sharing government in Belfast for the
first time in over four years, or lead to new and uncharted political
At Stormont on Thursday, Mr Adams said the current phase of political
talks would decide the future of the Good Friday Agreement "and the
stakes are that high".
He said Sinn Fein's focus would be on the restoration of the political
institutions including the power sharing executive but would absent
themselves from meaningless debates on local government issues.
"In reality the Peter Hain assembly is powerless on all these issues.
It would be nothing more than a talking shop," he added.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has accused the rival nationalist SDLP of being
confused in its attitude to the Assembly.
Although initially rejecting a shadow assembly, SDLP leader Mark Durkan
indicated yesterday his party would take part in debates in order to
test British attitudes to SDLP policies.
Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy said he SDLP appeared to have a confused
approach to the Assembly.
"Sinn Fein is absolutely clear on our approach to the Peter Hain
Assembly," the Newry and Armagh MP said.
"We will be there solely for the business of establishing a
"Anything else is a waste of time and an attempt by powerless
politicians to justify their salaries and allowances."
He continued: "If Assembly members want to change British policy on
water charges, increased rates, rural planning, education and health
cuts, the only way to do this is to set up our own power-sharing
"The DUP, however, have given no commitment or signal that they will
enter a power-sharing executive.
"I am therefore, concerned at the confusion and mixed messages coming
from the SDLP.
"Having repeatedly said that they would not be involved in a talking
shop they are now saying they will take part in pointless debates in a
"This can only encourage the DUP in their belief that they can achieve
an Assembly which departs from the principles of the Good Friday
"The SDLP need to clear up the confusion and tell us if they are now
willing to be part of a sham Assembly."
* Democratic Unionist Jim Wells and Sinn Fein's Francie Molloy were
yesterday named by Peter Hain as Stormont's two new deputy Speakers.
Mr Hain had already appointed former cross-community Alliance Party
deputy leader Eileen Bell as Speaker.
* Hain has also introduced new junior direct-rule ministers Paul
Goggins and Maria Eagle who replaced Shaun Woodward and Angela Smith in
last week's British government reshuffle.
Ms Eagle, a Liverpool MP, takes responsibility in the North of Ireland
for employment, learning, education, enterprise, trade, investment,
culture, arts and leisure.
Mr Goggins, a Manchester MP, will control policing, prisons, health,
social services and public safety.