Category: Archive

Unionists, SDLP spar over cross-border projects

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

He is still threatening to boycott talks aimed at reviving the assembly and executive unless the Dail revokes legislation to keep the six projects up and running.
After meeting the Northern secretary, Paul Murphy, Trimble denied claims by the SDLP leader, Mark Durkan, that he’d been kept out of the loop. “We always knew something needed to be done in relation to the implementation bodies upon the suspension of the Assembly,” Trimble explained.
“But we informed both our own government and the Irish government at separate meetings that they should consult with us as to the precise form of any legislation. This they failed to do.
“At no point were we taken through the new side agreement and the legislation introduced into the Irish Parliament. We believe the form of the new side agreement is dangerously loose and had we been consulted we would have made our views known very clearly.”
Ulster Unionists and anti-Agreement unionists have protested vigorously about the moves to keep the implementation bodies functioning. The bodies implement cross-border policies in tourism, inland waterways, food safety and other areas.
In a bid to calm unionists, Murphy claimed that the legislation was a “care and maintenance” move to protect the 700 jobs and work of the North-South bodies. No new policies would be drawn up during suspension, he insisted, nor would the North South Ministerial Council meet while the Assembly was on hold.
Sinn Fein assembly group leader Conor Murphy has accused Ulster Unionists of “progressive disruption.” The Newry and Armagh assemblyman said, “Last September, the Ulster Unionist Party adopted a wreckers’ charter.
“They committed themselves to collapsing the political institutions and withdrawing from the agreement they signed up to four years ago. That is the context within which we must view the latest UUP moves.”
Murphy also said that former UUP Minister Reg Empey has come clean on unionist objections to the legislation to allow the continued functioning of the All Ireland project.
“Reg Empey has let the cat out of the bag. He is now saying that the central objection of the UUP to legislation to allow the All Ireland implementation bodies to continue is that it removes the Unionist veto.”
“I would say to Mr Empey and unionists that if we are to rebuild the momentum for progress then they need to grow up and discard the protective comfort blanket of a Unionist veto”.
“Unionist attempts to veto the continued operation of the North South Implementation Bodies is clearly part of the working out of the anti-agreement resolutions adopted in September and the UUP election battle with the DUP.”
Meanwhile, a meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council scheduled for the middle of January has been postponed while behind-the-scenes moves to get a deal between London and republicans continue.
The executive of the Unionist Party agreed the delay at a meeting on Friday in anticipation of proposals in February to restore the power-sharing executive. Talks between London and Sinn Fein are understood to be taking place on a package of measures to encourage the IRA to carry out “acts of completion.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen has said the IRA might carry out one of the “greatest acts” in Irish history in a bid to break the deadlock. If the February deadline passes it is considered likely the assembly elections due in May will be postponed.
Anti-Agreement UUP MP, Jeffrey Donaldson, who proposed the cancellation of next month’s adjourned UUC meeting, said on Saturday it would not benefit the party to assemble delegates in four weeks’ time and then have to recall them in early March to examine new proposals.
Party leader David Trimble said proposals agreed before the end of February between the government and Sinn Fein would not necessarily mean restoration of the Executive.

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