Peace process is shattered: Paisley

Democratic Unionist Party leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, today claimed the Northern Ireland peace process was now "shattered".

Democratic Unionist Party leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, today claimed the Northern Ireland peace process was now "shattered".

Mr Paisely, a staunch critic of the Good Friday Agreement, gave his bleak assessment came as Tony Blair prepared for crunch talks at Downing Street with unionists and nationalists in a bid to avert the deepening crisis surrounding the political situation.

The Prime Minister was expected to discuss the deadlock over IRA disarmament, policing reforms and demilitarisation with an Ulster Unionist delegation led by First Minister David Trimble.

The nationalist SDLP leader John Hume and his deputy Seamus Mallon are also heading a team to meet Mr Blair before he leaves for the US.

But Mr Paisley insisted that Mr Trimble’s recent warnings that the Good Friday Agreement could be heading for a review has dealt the process a critical blow.

He said: "It has been shattered by what Mr Trimble has said that they now need to devise new workable democratic structures for the Agreement."

The DUP leader also confirmed his party has agreed to take its seats on the new body being set up to oversee and scrutinise the reformed police service planned for the province, although he refused to reveal who the representatives are.

"We have already our names with the Secretary of State to join the Police Board"’ he said.

"We have never been withdrawers, we have always been in there fighting and we will be there fighting for the best deal for the police and also exposing what they are doing."

Mr Paisley added that his party’s strategy of short-term rotation its two ministerial seats in the Stormont Executive was ongoing.

"It’s still on. We didn’t say how long they would serve," he said.

"I’m the nominating officer and when I feel that we rotate we will rotate."

The SDLP has been under pressure to endorse the new policing structures but is still refusing to do so or participate in the board.

RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan is expected to press ahead with a recruitment drive later this week for the next generation of police officers.

The advertisements will be broadcast within days for 240 new recruits.

Under the Government’s Police Act, equal numbers of Catholic and Protestant recruits must join the service.

However, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams last night urged nationalists and republicans not to sign up to be among the first contingent of recruits.

The West Belfast MP said: "If this recruitment campaign comes into being, it will be seen as a signal that the British Government has given up on the search for a new policing service.

"Given that this is recruitment to an old force, no democrat would want to be a part of this.

"Policing is such an important issue, such a central issue, it needs to be got right and the responsibility lies with the British Government to get it right."

Mr Adams said if republicans were to endorse the service, the Government would still have to move towards the Patten Commission’s recommendations on the name of the police, the oath, symbols, emblem, democratic control and ownership, plastic bullets and the Special Branch.

There was also a cool response to reports of the recruitment drive from the deputy leader of the SDLP, Seamus Mallon.

Side-stepping questions about whether he would urge young nationalists to apply when the recruitment advertisements appeared, the Stormont Deputy First Minister said: "There is no new policing board in place yet.

"There are none of the new arrangements for the new police service in place yet. Let’s take it one step at a time.

"I wish well to anybody who decides to respond to that advertisement."

The SDLP has been seeking assurances on a number of issues including plans for the phasing out of the full-time police reserve and phasing in of the part-time reserve, the future of Special Branch, the name of the new service, flags and emblems and inquiries into a number of controversial killings.

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