No white smoke yet..

Sinn Féin’s ard chomhairle are currently meeting in Dublin, SF statement here, and there’s a lot of coverage of what the hyperbolic Secretary of State for Wales etc, Peter Hain, refers to as – “This move by Gerry Adams is of enormous significance and is of seismic importance.” The Irish Times also has an interview with Gerry Adams[subs req], one of a series he did with various media outlets yesterday, in which he hints at the possibility of further delays.. Updated below More White smoke? Or gray.. Adds And more intriguing comments here And Sinn Féin statementFrom the Irish Times

Gerry Adams does not know how the ardchomhairle will react to his call for a special ardfheis to review party policy on the police, nor will he reveal what will be in his ardchomhairle motion. “The ardchomhairle need to hear that first, but as I said in the statement, I believe that significant progress has been made. I think I have the basis for putting a motion for a special ardfheis and if you ask me what are the important elements of the statement, the first is that I have taken the step of calling this meeting.

“Secondly, if the ardchomhairle agrees this motion and if others, including the two governments and the DUP, respond positively, then we are into an ardfheis in January.”

Asked if he had a target date next month, he said: “I’m very wedded to the idea of doing an intensive engagement with individuals, with veterans, with victims of state terrorism, with people who have been in the front line, with republican and nationalist communities. I like to think we can have a situation where everybody who wants to can have their say and if we disagree, then let’s agree to disagree.”

Questioned if this can be completed within the St Andrews timetable, Mr Adams confirmed: “That’s the clear aim, very clear, if that slips that will be for practical reasons but I wouldn’t be doing all of this [ otherwise].”[added emphasis]

Peter Hain, however, states elsewhere that the March 26th deadline remains as firm as ever

He [Hain] also insisted that there would be no pushing back of the timetable for securing power sharing involving the DUP and Sinn Féin by March 26, reminding all sides that the St Andrews Agreement (Northern Ireland) Act was very specific that there would either be devolution on March 26 or dissolution of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Irish Times also has some of the detail of the proposals concerning a future Ministry[subs req]

Under a formula devised in the recent talks, a policing model was created based on a proposal tabled by the DUP before Christmas. It means that a department of justice will be established with a minister with full cabinet powers and a junior minister, most likely from the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP.

These ministers will be elected on the so-called “50/50/50” system whereby the ministers must first win at least 50 per cent support of the Assembly members to include 50 per cent support of unionists and 50 per cent support of nationalist members.

However, there is still uncertainty over the time frame for transferring policing and justice powers to the Stormont Executive. The governments believe this formula makes it possible to establish the department by May 2008, as envisaged in the St Andrews Agreement. They hope that Sinn Féin, by initiating this move on policing, will in turn prompt the DUP to soften its refusal to make any commitments on a time frame.




The PA report has some interesting additional comments by Peter Hain

With the government tabling its own proposals to the Transitional Assembly policing and justice sub group for discussion next Wednesday, Mr Hain confirmed that the DUP and Sinn Fein may have to exclude themselves from seeking the policing and justice ministers posts in any future executive.

“It has always been clear that none of the parties have discounted, providing the conditions are right, for May 2008 as a target date for the devolution of policing and justice,” he said. [added emphasis]

“It is true the bulk of policing has been devolved already through the Policing Board and the District Policing Partnerships.

“However, what we have suggested is that there should be a cross-community vote to ensure that there is a Justice Minister and Deputy Justice Minister, which will ensure those individuals will have cross-community confidence.

“In all likelihood, that would ensure neither Sinn Fein nor the DUP would be filling those posts, but it is not a question of excluding anybody. We are asking them to sign up to a self denying ordinance.”

Providing the conditions are right..

More The interesting comment is in the second paragraph of the BBC report.

Speaking after talks in Dublin, party president Gerry Adams said the meeting would be held if the two governments and the DUP gave a positive response.[added emphasis]

So, has a date been set for the Ard Fheis or not?

Adds The RTÉ report has an even more intriguing line

It is not clear yet whether the proposal to call an Ard Fheis was put to a vote [by the Ard Comhairle].

And The Sinn Féin statement highlights what the motion contains.. but doesn’t detail it, nor does it give a date for the Ard Fheis to be held

“Today I put a motion to the Ard Chomhairle asking it to convene a special Ard Fheis on the issue of policing. The Ard Chomairle has backed this proposal. If others including the two governments and the DUP respond positively this Ard Fheis will take place in January. “

Additionally, and in contrast to the previous motion passed by the Ard Chomhairle

Ending Repression and Political Policing

Total opposition to any involvement by British Security Service/MI5 in civic policing[added emphasis]

– Total opposition to the use of plastic bullets

– Ensuring there is no place in the PSNI for those guilty of human rights abuses

Which may, or may not, answer another question..