UK and Ireland to press ahead with NI plans

The UK and Ireland will continue with the St Andrews' agreement to get Stormont up and running
The UK and Ireland will continue with the St Andrews' agreement to get Stormont up and running

The governments of the UK and Ireland plan to continue with plans to reinstate a power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland.

In a joint statement released today, Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain and Irish foreign minister Dermot Ahern said they were "satisfied" with progress and could continue with legislation bringing to bring the St Andrews proposals into effect.

The Stormont assembly will now have to nominate a first and deputy first minister on November 24th and the process of restoring power will begin.

If a consensus is achieved then the Northern Ireland assembly, which was suspended in October 2002 following allegations of a republican spy ring at Stormont, could be re-established by March 26th.

"When we concluded our talks at St Andrews in October we asked the parties to reflect on the agreement, to consult with their membership on the proposed way forward and to confirm their acceptance by November 10th," the statement reads.

"These consultations are now complete and the governments have been in contact with the parties.

"We are satisfied from these contacts that the St Andrews agreement, implemented in good faith, represents the basis for a political settlement."

The politicians added that the settlement depended on support for power-sharing and the political institutions and support for policing and the rule of law.

"Securing these objectives remains the priority of the two governments and of everyone in Northern Ireland," they said.

However, there are still major obstacles to overcome.

Sinn Féin has said it is still not in a position to pledge support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the courts and the rule of law, and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has stated it would not share power with Sinn Féin unless there was support for policing and the rule of law.

"Sinn Fein has complained that they are not yet ready to endorse the police because of their internal problems," said DUP leader Ian Paisley on Wednesday.

"The democratic process cannot be twisted and turned for Sinn Fein's convenience. The DUP will be maintaining its position that there must be delivery of support for the police immediately before this process can move forward."

However, today Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said his party was prepared to sit down and enter negotiations.

"I firmly believe that all of the challenges we face can be overcome," he said.

"On November 24th the assembly must meet as set out at St Andrews for the nominations of the first and deputy first minister as joint and co-equal partners in a new power-sharing government.

"Sinn Féin are willing to sit down with Ian Paisley and the leadership of the DUP to start preparing for government."


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