Blair urged to press DUP over commitment

 

SDLP leader Mr Mark Durkan today urged the British Prime Minister to force the DUP to  commit itself to the transfer of policing and justice powers to Stormont  within 18 months.

Mr Durkan has written to Mr Blair appealing to him to impress on the DUP that dragging their heels on the issue was unacceptable.

He said it was vital that the powers were transferred quickly as part of the plan to restore devolution to Northern Ireland.

"We are alarmed, however, that the DUP has indicated that they see transfer in only three or fours years time at the earliest. That is totally unacceptable. It means no transfer until a whole ten years after the Agreement was first signed. It means making progress at only a snail's pace," he said.

Negotiations in the wake of last month's talks at Leeds Castle in Kent are continuing but there is little sign that the deadlock is going to be broken.

After the talks Mr Blair said he could not believe that the opportunity for a settlement, including paramilitary disarmament would fail because of procedural matters at Stormont.

The DUP is pushing for more accountability of Ministers in the powersharing Executive and for the Assembly to have more say over the operation of cross border bodies.

But nationalists claim the DUP is seeking a return to majority rule by installing a unionist veto over policies put forward by their ministers.

Mr Durkan said his party would not agree to any dilution of the Good Friday Agreement, including changes to policing.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein president Mr Gerry Adams also expressed concern that the DUP would not come up with an acceptable timeframe for the transfer of policing and justice.

He told the BBC's Politics Showthat he was more and more of the view that the DUP did not want an early return of devolved government.

"If the DUP are only being tactical about this or there are elements within that party that don't want to do the business then of course the governments need to move ahead because you cannot have a situation where the slowest carriage on the train dictates the pace on which the train moves," he added.

PA