31/03/2006

SF warns over 'diluting' Agreement

Sinn Féin has said that the British and Irish governments are diluting the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness warned the two governments on Friday that his party was determined to defend the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr McGuinness said: "We are deeply concerned at the approach of the two governments. Rather than defend the Agreement by standing up to unionist rejectionists, the two governments are allowing the DUP to bully them into diluting the Agreement.

"This is a mistake and we have told the two governments this. We remain in close and constant contact with both the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minster.

"Our focus is on defending the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement. Anything less than that is unacceptable to Sinn Fein."

Sinn Féin and the SDLP have expressed deep reservations about Unionist proposals to recall the Assembly without forming an Executive with local ministers.

Earlier this week, SDLP Leader Mark Durkan also warned the two governments that a strategy of putting pressure on the Democratic Unionist Party and threatening to wind up the Assembly would suit the DUP agenda.

He said: “We are warning the Government again now about it’s proposed way forward. They believe that the DUP will take fright at the thought of the Assembly being shut down in the Autumn. That is a miscalculation. Winding the Assembly up might suit the DUP well enough - because it would allow them to declare the Good Friday Agreement dead. And with nine MPs they may feel that they have the resources to weather the storm."

There is speculation that the Assembly may be recalled in mid-May for up to six weeks, and that a deadline for devolution under existing legislation will be set in November 24.

The dates were revealed following a meeting between the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and a delegation from Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance in Dublin on Thursday.

Mr Ahern and Mr Blair are expected to announce their blueprint for Northern Ireland devolution next week during a visit to Armagh on April 6.

(SP)

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