28/08/2008

Stormont Devolution Talks To Halt 'Crisis'

Yet another crisis is looming next week as the two top Stormont parties - the DUP and Sinn Fein are set to hold crisis talks on policing and justice matters to try to avert what is being billed as the possible "fall of the devolved government".

One day-long session has been proposed with others of a similar duration and intensity anticipated in advance of the scheduled NI Executive meeting of September 18.

It now appears to have become a virtual 'deadline' for resolving the two sides' differences.

Sinn Fein has warned its ministers could walk away from the Executive - explicitly when Irish TD Caoimghin O'Caolain's threatened last weekend that "political institutions will be pulled down" - if the DUP does not agree to devolve policing and justice powers to Stormont.

However, First Minister Peter Robinson has since said there will be "consequences" if republicans continue to block government meetings at that point.
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Adding to the political confusion, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said Sinn Fein has been knocking back their requests for meetings over recent weeks, while at the same time publicly issuing threats to topple the Government - because of a lack of haste in resolving the issues hounding devolution.

Despite Gerry Adams and others suggesting time is running out on the bid to settle a host of outstanding matters, Mr Donaldson revealed he has been seeking discussions with republicans for over a fortnight.

But Sinn Fein has since responded by noting that the party had made the offer to meet the DUP next week.

Meanwhile, DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds said Sinn Fein's attempts to force their own way by issuing threats will not work and were "ludicrous".

Mr Dodds said it was time for Sinn Fein to accept the political reality that the DUP has made no commitment to the devolution of policing and justice powers until such time as the unionist community was confident to allow the same to occur.

(BMcC)

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