Mark Durkan, speaking after his meeting with Bertie Ahern is still concerned about the apparent veto the DUP appears to have been offered in the latest joint government papers. Will his fears stand up if and when the paper is eventually made public?From Mark Durkan:
“The SDLP hopes that over the next few days we will see progress. Nobody is more frustrated than us at the slow pace of movement to date. But we have to be honest. We are still concerned that the DUP are getting too much and giving too little.
“We made clear our concerns to the Taoiseach about the lack of progress on North/South and the lack of a timeframe for the devolution of justice.
“Above all, we expressed alarm at the proposal that the DUP would have a veto over the appointment of nationalist ministers. Peter Robinson has been telling people for a year that he has a way of stopping Gerry Kelly from being Justice Minister. This is his way.
“For the first time in our history, the Agreement gave nationalists the right to nominate their own ministers without any veto from unionism. That’s equality. Now it is being diluted at the behest of the DUP.
“Sinn Fein appears not to have recognised this danger. They claim that it does not matter and that nationalists can veto DUP ministers in return. But if nationalists do that, we can be hit with suspension. That’s why this new veto gives the DUP the advantage.
“The SDLP refused to sign up to such a veto when the Agreement was
negotiated in 1998. Indeed, had we agreed to it, there might never have been an Executive. Instead, there would have been endless rows over Martin McGuinness’s appointment as Minister for Education.
“If these proposals would not have worked in 1998, I cannot see how they will work now. They are a recipe for inequality and instability.”