Plan would revive N. Ireland power-share


Jul 10, 2006
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The British and Irish governments unveiled a complex plan Friday for resurrecting a Catholic-Protestant administration for Northern Ireland, the long-elusive lynchpin of lasting peace and stability in the British territory.

The prime ministers of Britain and Ireland,
Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, jointly unveiled their step-by-step proposals after failing to broker an agreement between Northern Ireland's polar extremes: the Protestants of the Democratic Unionist party and the Catholics of Sinn Fein.

The prime ministers said Gerry Adams' Sinn Fein, the
Irish Republican Army-linked party that represents the Irish Catholic minority, must make the first move, and they gave both parties a month to accept their blueprint. If either side refused, they warned, the three-year quest to revive power-sharing — the central goal of the Good Friday peace accord of 1998 — would be abandoned in favor of continued British rule.

"People are overcoming a number of entrenched positions over many years," Blair said at the end of three days of negotiations at a golf resort near this seaside university town.

"I believe we have all the elements that can bring satisfaction to all the issues," said Ahern. "If not perfect by everybody's agenda, it's a fair and sustainable balance."

Sinn Fein leaders would be required first to signal the party's abandonment of its decades-old opposition to the Northern Ireland police. Ian Paisley, in exchange, would order his Democratic Unionist party to elect himself and a senior Sinn Fein figure to be joint leaders of Northern Ireland's new administration.

This would happen Nov. 24, the date that Britain and Ireland long billed as the deadline for power-sharing to resume.

Under the new plan, however, Paisley and Sinn Fein's nominee — most likely deputy leader Martin McGuinness — would not receive any powers until March 26. The delay, Blair said, would allow Paisley's Protestant followers to be able to test whether Sinn Fein was truly supporting the police.

Paisley — whose hard-line party holds veto power over forming any administration because it is the largest in the Northern Ireland Assembly — offered a cautious welcome for the governments' plans.

"Everyone who aspires to sit in positions of power in Northern Ireland must, both by word and deed, demonstrate their unequivocal support for the laws of the land and those whose job it is to enforce them," said Paisley, an 80-year-old evangelist who has spent decades opposing compromise in Northern Ireland.

Adams offered a more guarded reaction, declining to comment on the key question of accepting the police.

But he described power-sharing as "an enormous prize. Common sense, political realism and the interests of all sections of our people demand that we achieve this."

If the Democratic Unionists accept that Sinn Fein has embraced British law and order for the first time in its history, the way would be clear for the Northern Ireland Assembly to elect the rest of the administration on March 14.

Despite the March 26 date cited by the plan, control of the justice system from would not pass from Britain to local hands for at least two years. Sinn Fein had demanded that an immediate transfer.

Britain in turn pledged to postpone its plans to enact a series of measures in Northern Ireland concerning schools, property tax increases and new water charges — moves that, in most cases, both Catholics and Protestants opposed. Blair said a local administration, if formed, should have the opportunity to choose its own policies on all those matters.

The Protestant-dominated police force has already boosted its Catholic officers from 8 percent to 20 percent, but police still face hostility when operating in Sinn Fein power bases.

The IRA killed 1,775 people — including nearly 300 police officers — from 1970 to a 1997 cease-fire. The outlawed group last year formally abandoned its campaign to overthrow Northern Ireland by force and handed its weapons stockpiles to disarmament officials.

Despite the IRA peace moves, relations between the two longtime foes remain distant, with Paisley still refusing to talk directly to Sinn Fein negotiators.

Northern Ireland's previous coalition — which collapsed in 2002 over an IRA spying scandal inside government circles — was led by Protestant and Catholic moderates, but included the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein.
To be honest it's just not gonna work, no matter what they say or do Paisley wont agree to have anyone from Sinn Fein working alongside him, I would say he'd be interested to work with a less powerful party e.g. SDLP and in knowing Mark Durkan he would be the man to take the task with ease
I think that giving Northern Ireland independence will probally solve a lot of problems.
I would actually hate the independance... we finally have peace here and if granted the freedom it would just start another terrorism war as retaliation from one side of the community and if the other happens it'll just be the same thing... it's better for everyone if we just stay a part of the UK but be known as Ireland at the same time, this way everyone is happy

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