“time is clearly of the essence”

Various reports on the DUP’s display of unity following the meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair at Downing Street yesterday – the delegation included Ian Paisley Snr, Peter Robinson, Nigel Dodds and Maurice Morrow. The Irish Times’ Frank Millar picks up on[subs req] a possible suggestion of more fudge ahead, pending the discussions in the Programme for Government’s sub-committeeThe BBC report carries quotes from the DUP delegation

The DUP leader said they discussed “very many things that cause us great trouble and concern”.

“The clock has ticked and we’ve had no real progress from the IRA/Sinn Fein,” he told a news conference.

“Now they must put their money where their mouth is and they must move.”

Mr Dodds, the North Belfast MP, said it had been a “useful exchange”.

“We concentrated on the delivery from Sinn Fein of the things that they need to do and the delivery from government on the things that they need to do,” he said.

“We pressed them very strongly of the need for both of those people to get on with it, because time is clearly of the essence.”

From the Irish Times report

As his party put on a display of unity, DUP leader the Rev Ian Paisley maintained pressure on Sinn Féin – demanding “universal acceptance of policing” and a resolution of “the law and order issue” as a prior requirement for restored powersharing government at Stormont.

Party chairman Lord Morrow and chief whip Nigel Dodds formed a four-man delegation with Dr Paisley and his deputy Peter Robinson. And both Lord Morrow and Mr Dodds stressed the need for Sinn Féin “delivery” as Dr Paisley said the “authority of government” was required to finally resolve the policing issue.

And a possible suggestion of more fudge before the March election

The possibility that Sinn Féin might hold an ardfheis to approve an interim or conditional position on the PSNI prompted one DUP source yesterday to speculate that the Assembly elections scheduled for early March would now proceed in any event.

However, there are increasingly strong indications that Mr Blair, with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s support, would be prepared to cancel the elections without prior DUP/Sinn Féin agreement to form an Executive. While accepting that the pressure currently is on Sinn Féin to call an ardfheis, authoritative sources are also making it clear that both governments are equally committed to the indicative timetable set out in the St Andrews Agreement for the devolution of policing and justice powers by May 2008.

Meanwhile, there is speculation about the appointment of an independent assessor to monitor MI5 activities in the North as part of an attempt to reassure Sinn Féin that the security service will not be operating as “a force within a force” in its future relationship with the PSNI.[added emphasis]

Whether an independent assessor monitoring MI5 can be made to tally with the stated position of the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle, et al, only time will tell.

And where a commitment to an “indicative timetable” sits within the definitions of target dates and commitments and deadlines and conditions is not entirely clear at this point.

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