Sean Farren believes that Sinn Fein moved decisively away from an inclusive power sharing deal and in effect accepted the priniciple of a voluntary coalition when it signed up to the so-called comprehensive agreement in December 2004.From Sean Farren:
The very manner in which Sinn Fein have conducted negotiations has effectively conceded a unionist veto on the restoration of the institutions. So long as they insist that an Agreement between Sinn Fein and the DUP is a pre requisite for restoration they will give the DUP a veto on the re establishment of the Agreements institutions.
Sinn Fein spokespersons have described the December 2004 comprehensive agreement as ‘a deal negotiated by Sinn Fein and the DUP’. That deal would have conceded serious departures from the Good Friday Agreement to the DUP and even had the IRA adopting the DUP language of a ‘new agreement’.
Sinn Fein now say that power sharing is the core of the agreement. The key fact is that inclusive power sharing is the core of the Agreement. The Sinn Fein/DUP deal of December 04 abandoned the inclusive principles of the Agreement by providing for new legislation to automatically exclude from ministerial office other parties who would not vote them into office as First and Deputy First Ministers.
Whereas the SDLP have rejected all the DUPs suggestions of voluntary coalition, Sinn Fein readily agreed the essence of voluntary coalition with the DUP with other parties excluded in December 04.
For the SDLP the goal is the full implementation and working of the Agreement. We have never put forward proposals as an alternative to the Agreement, only as an alternative to stalemate, suspension and Direct Rule. Sinn Fein will never be in a position to lecture us about the Agreement and its implementation. Their approach has given us 3 years of suspension and stalemate. Their approach has conceded a veto to anti agreement unionism. Our approach sees everything put up too all the political parties.
That is why we want to move towards a restoration of the institutions. Sinn Fein’s approach sees everything being kicked back to the British and Direct Rule. The SDLP will continue to work for what the people of Ireland voted for – the full and faithful implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Of course, Sinn Fein are not actually looking for this. They are simply looking for more side deals with the DUP.”
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty