What the *principals* actually said…

Though the noises off in the DUP may or may not prove to be important, in advance of a real split or resignations in the DUP, any deal must necessarily be done by the leaders. The Irish Times has a useful timeline for all the statements of the principals (subs needed) yesterday. Crisis, what crisis?

Today’s statements by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, DUP leader Rev Ian Paisley, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and the Northern Ireland Office.

Tony Blair, lunchtime

“I have spoken intensively to the leaders of both the DUP and Sinn Féin over the past days. Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams have made their positions clear to me, on the two crucial issues of powersharing 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 powersharing on the basis and timeframe set out at St Andrews.

“On policing, justice and the rule of law, Sinn Féin will propose to their party’s ardfheis that Sinn Féin 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 Féin for the rule of law, police and courts that is necessary.

“For their part, the DUP require that the Sinn Féin 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 seven of the St Andrews Agreement, namely on or before May 2008, provided of course that the Sinn Féin 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.

“My view therefore is that if there is delivery by Sinn Féin of support for the police, courts and rule of law within the St Andrews 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.

Gerry Adams’s response, 3pm

“Last Friday the Sinn Féin leadership set out in the clearest possible terms our commitment to move forward on policing. We now need to see the same clarity from the DUP.

“British prime minister Tony Blair’s statement this morning accurately summarises the core of our ardfheis motion on policing.

“Last Friday the Sinn Féin ardchomhairle backed a proposal to convene a special ardfheis on policing. We set out in clear and unequivocal terms the substance of the motion which we would put to the ardfheis and our intention to hold this before the end of January. We also set a very clear course forward and stated very plainly that we would be going to the party to ask it to support this motion.

“This is a hugely significant step.

“British prime minister Tony Blair’s statement this morning accurately summarises the core of our ardfheis motion on policing.

“Of course the difficulties which have arisen over recent days are not about Sinn Féin’s commitments. We set these out very clearly last Friday. The difficulties, which led to intense negotiations between Sinn Féin and the British government in recent days, were because the DUP did not respond positively.

“Republicans want to see a new beginning to policing, we want to move forward, we want our special ardfheis to go ahead, but this cannot be a one-way street. The DUP also have commitments and responsibilities. We now await their response to Tony Blair’s statement.

Dr Ian Paisley’s response, 3pm

“Over the course of the last number of days I have made clear to the prime minister that upfront delivery is required from Sinn Féin on the issue of support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the courts and the rule of law. I welcome the prime minister’s assessment. Sinn Féin must deliver on policing in a real and meaningful way.

“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. The time for action from Sinn Féin is now. If we are to see further political developments, then it must be in the context of full and final delivery from republicans. On this there will be no weakening.

“We have remained steadfast on the need to achieve full delivery and if confidence is to be built then it is up to Sinn Féin to match their words with deeds.”

NI Office, shortly before 4pm

“It is positive that the leadership of both Sinn Féin and the DUP have accepted and welcomed the prime minister’s assessment as set out in his statement today. We believe that the parties can move forward on that basis within the timeframe of the St Andrews Agreement.”

© 2007 The Irish Times

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