I have spoken intensively to the leaders of both the DUP and Sinn Fein over the past days. Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams have made their positions clear to me, on the two crucial issues of power-sharing and support for policing, justice and the rule of law.
So let me set out my clear understanding of these positions.
I need both leaders to agree to this understanding.
Both parties have already publicly agreed to power-sharing on the basis and timeframe set out at St Andrews.
On policing, justice and the rule of law Sinn Fein will propose to their Party’s Ard Fheis that Sinn Fein commit now and fully to support the PSNI and the criminal justice system and actively encourage everyone to co-operate fully with the police services in tackling crime in all areas as well as actively supporting all the criminal justice institutions. These proposals, if committed to, and acted upon amount to the support by Sinn Fein for the rule of law, police and courts that is necessary.
For their part, the DUP require that the Sinn Fein commitments to support for the police, the courts and the rule of law are translated into action so that there is real and tangible evidence of such support. It is delivery on those commitments that creates the conditions for devolution of policing and justice to take place. When there is delivery, there will be devolution.
On the above basis the Government is in a position to facilitate the timeframe set out in para 7 of the St Andrew’s Agreement, namely on or before May 2008, provided of course that the Sinn Fein commitments are translated into action within that timeframe; and the DUP undertake it will do nothing to delay or obstruct devolution of policing and justice when those conditions are met.[added emphasis]
My view therefore is that if there is delivery by Sinn Fein of support for the police, courts and rule of law within the St Andrew’s timeframe, then there should be devolution of policing and justice within that timeframe.
It is only on this basis and with this clarity that we can proceed to an election. I am confident that both parties want to see progress and will honour their commitments.
But there is no point in proceeding unless there is such clarity.
The West Belfast MP said: “The core of a motion I would put to a Sinn Fein ard fheis is accurately summarised in the British prime minister’s statement today.”
More It’s worth remembering what Ian Paisley has already said “the sooner we have delivery, the better for us all.”
And What he has said today
In his statement tonight, Mr Paisley said he had made it clear to Mr Blair that upfront delivery was expected from Sinn Fein.
“Sinn Fein must deliver on policing in a real and meaningful way,” the North Antrim MP stressed.
“There can be no movement unless we have clarity on the need for everyone to support the rule of law.
“The Prime Minister is well aware that we are willing to make progress on a level playing field when there is full support for and co-operation with the police.”
He reiterated: “We have remained steadfast on the need to achieve full delivery and if confidence is to be built then it is up to Sinn Fein to match their words with deeds.”