Sinn Fein News, September 6, 2006

Hain confirms "intensive" talks conference

British Direct Ruler Peter Hain confirmed yesterday that Intensive political talks involving Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern will be held outside Six Counties next month. Media reports have indicated that the talks will be held at a hotel at St Andrews in Scotland.

Putting pressure on the DUP, Mr Hain stressed there was "no question" of an extension to the 24 November deadline for restoring devolution. "This will be a working conference of intense negotiations. This is not some kind of stately home exercise for its own sake", Mr Hain added.

Sinn Féin yesterday called on the two governments to set out clearly a timetable for the restoration of the political institutions governing the 12 week period up to November 24th. They said a credible work plan is essential and that the two day negotiations session outside Ireland will only be meaningful if it is part of such a planned approach.

The only party opposed to the restoration of the political institutions is the DUP. Sinn Féín said they are ready and willing to go back into a fully functioning Assembly and Executive in the morning. The only blockage is anti-Agreement stance of Ian Paisley and his party.

Daily Ireland, September 6, 2006

Editorial: Extend deadline and lose credibility

Direct-rule secretary of state Peter Hain yesterday confirmed that political talks between the Northern parties would be held outside Ireland next month. He also confirmed that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British prime minister Tony Blair would also be present.

Mr Hain once more stressed that there was no question of an extension to the November 24 deadline for the restoring of devolution. There is a lot of scepticism among the general public at the very idea of politicians once more heading off to an English or Scottish castle for another weekend of intense talks and the usual pressure from both governments.

Mr Hain yesterday said that getting away from the ďday-to-day issues and daily pressures that face all politiciansĒ would concentrate minds and thatís the reason the talks would take place in England or Scotland. Unfortunately Mr Hain seems to have conveniently forgotten that the main stumbling block to political progress in the North is the DUP and that partyís procrastination over recent years.

Of course the DUP would not have been able to get away with its delaying tactics if it had not have been for the British government which has pandered to their every demand since the DUP became the biggest unionist party after the last two elections. As a result few are holding out much hope for the planned talks.

The atmosphere hasnít been helped either by the belief that Blair is seen more and more as a lame duck prime minister who is seeing out his last days. Yesterday, as Mr Hain was briefing the press 17 Labour MPs, who were previously seen as loyal to Mr Blair, signed a letter calling on him to resign. A second letter calling for his immediate departure is also doing the rounds.

Whether Mr Blair goes before Christmas or holds out until next summer remains to be seen.

But with Blairís position unclear itís difficult to see how pressure can be put on the DUP to share power with Sinn Féin, even without the political cover that party has been given in the past by the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), whose next report has already been billed as being favourable to republicans.

With a general election planned for the South no later than May next year, there is now very little wriggle room for both governments and the Northern parties to finally restore the power-sharing government and the cross border institutions.

With a new rates hike, water rates and more everyday decisions being made over the head of local politicians, itís now time for unionists to realize thatís itís time to reach a political accommodation. Whatever happens in the coming months, the two governments must stick to the November 24 deadline.

An extension of that deadline would see both governments and the peace process lose all credibility.