In contrast to the stand-off that preceded them, again in the Irish Times, the SDLP came out of the meeting with the Irish Government talking about proposals to move forward – SDLP puts forward own proposals – “We surely now have come to the end of the line of a process of trying to manage the problems surrounding the agreement focusing exclusively on one or two parties.”
Mark Durkan seemed equally concerned to emphasise that the ‘old game’ is over, saying –
..there had been “certain flaws in how the process has been conducted and managed” and said these should now be addressed. The process should now become “a process of equals.
“We surely now have come to the end of the line of a process of trying to manage the problems surrounding the agreement focusing exclusively on one or two parties.”
Mr Durkan’s remarks after his meeting with the Taoiseach and two Ministers yesterday reflect SDLP frustration at being sidelined in the political process for much of last year while the British and Irish governments sought to reach an agreement between the largest unionist and nationalist parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin.
He also appeared to rule out what he described as the “forms of exclusion”, in particular, the DUP proposals before Christmas [which] had opened the possibility of exclusion of some parties
And said that the Taoiseach had confirmed that he would not be revising the clear view he had stated in relation to the Northern Bank raid.
“He [the Taosieach] made it very clear that those views are based on what Irish intelligence sources are telling him, and not just on what Hugh Orde has said.
“He also underlined to us his determination that this problem, and the serious concerns that it gives rise to, won’t be used to derail the process. He, like ourselves, is committed to taking things forward.”
The SDLP leader appeared to suggest that next month’s intergovernmental meeting between the Irish and British Governments may be a deadline for the response from Sinn Féin that Bertie Ahern referred to –
He said drift and stalemate were not an option and that the two governments had to act, “and exercise good authority, and they can do that under the agreement using the British/Irish intergovernmental conference”.
This body would meet next month, he said, and the Taoiseach had given them “certain commitments as to how the Government would approach that meeting”.[my emphasis]