A couple of reports in today’s papers on the governments’ apparent acknowledgement that the political parties, and the governments, are dancing to different, and perhaps incompatible, tunes.. as most people should have realised by now. The Irish Times’s Mark Brennock reports “The Taoiseach and British prime minister will outline agreed proposals to make political progress in the North as early as next week, having concluded much earlier than expected that talks between the political parties are making no headway.”[subs req] – The Belfast Telegraph reports “The Prime Minister and the Taoiseach are planning to force the pace of political developments by meeting in London as early as next Wednesday to outline an agreed plan for restoring the Assembly.”.. but notes that the plan [B?, C?, D?], has yet to be finalised by the governments, never mind being agreed by the parties concerned.As the Belfast Telegraph notes –
But, as parallel talks with Direct Rule Minister David Hanson resumed today, party sources have indicated there is little basis of agreement on the way forward.
“We are going to this meeting with Mr Hanson and (Irish Minister) Noel Treacy today and we don’t even know what is on the agenda,” one party leader said today.
While Downing Street has yet to confirm the urgent summit officially, the two premiers are expected to present to the parties and the public firm options for restoring the Assembly, first in shadow form and then – following an election – proceeding to full devolution in less than a year.
Sources said that while options have been prepared “nothing has yet been decided”, including whether to confront the parties with a stark “take it or leave it” ultimatum.
While the Irish Times report notes –
There is considerable speculation that their joint plan could involve the restoration of the Northern Assembly in “shadow” form, with a subsequent deadline for full restoration conditional on agreement to re-establish the power-sharing executive as well.
The DUP has been urging London to re-establish the Assembly, but does not want a deadline set for the re-establishment of the other institutions.
However, yesterday Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the Assembly should be closed and salaries to its members stopped if the DUP refused to engage meaningfully in talks.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said yesterday that the two governments wanted to do things by agreement, “but as always in these things if we can’t get agreement we might have to make a call. That day is getting closer than we perhaps anticipated earlier, given the fact that we are not having the type of engagement perhaps that we would prefer.”
Yes, that’s the same Dermot Ahern who said in Jan this year “There is no Plan B. We don’t countenance failure in this because we were very close to it back in December 2004”