25/11/2005

Local parties angered by Government 'talks'

Following a meeting yesterday between some of the NI political parties and the NI Secretary of State Peter Hain and the Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, the political parties have expressed "anger" at a lack of information.

Speaking after the meeting yesterday Alliance Party Leader David Ford said: "We had an extremely angry meeting with the two Governments this afternoon. I suspect that the only value of the meeting will be if it causes Ministers to wonder why their recent behaviour has so annoyed a cross-community political party like Alliance, which is committed to moving this society forward in partnership.

"We raised a number of issues with the Government's sectarian and divisive way of governing Northern Ireland. These included the legislation on paramilitary fugitives, the failure to consult upon a victims' commissioner, the sectarian repartitioning of Northern Ireland under the guise of the Reform of Public Administration, and the apartheid way in which the Policing Board is being reconstituted."

Mr Ford said that he was concerned that Mr Hain had either failed or refused to respond when these questions were put to him.

He said: "Unless the Government starts to act in an inclusive and open way, I have grave doubts about their ability to restore devolution."

Referring to the fugitive proposals, SDLP leader Mark Durkan said that Sinn Fein knew it was making a "calculated trade-off" in relation to the on-the-run legislation.

The DUP has declined to take part in the meetings that started earlier this month, claiming that the party's position on the items under discussion were well known.

However, speaking last night at the Young Unionists AGM at Queens University, UUP Leader Sir Reg Empey attacked the DUP over a record of "abject failure" to deliver for Unionists, and pledged to put forward popular political policies that would bring positive leadership to the political process.

He said: "Unionists are frustrated at the sheer number and magnitude of the concessions given to Sinn Fein under the DUP's watch. The perception is that the process is all one-way traffic."

The earlier round of meetings were attended by Sinn Fein, the PUP and UKUP.

Further discussions are set to take place in the New Year.

(SP/MB)

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