The leader of the nationalist SDLP Mark Durkan today urged the Irish and British Governments to do everything possible to minimise the damage to the Good Friday Agreement.
Following talks in Downing Street with Tony Blair, he acknowledged that the power-sharing government in Stormont may have to be suspended following the allegations of an IRA spy ring operating within the Northern Ireland government.
However Mr Durkan, who is the province’s Deputy First Minister, said that it was essential that the agreement was kept alive even if the political institutions were suspended.
“In terms of what happens to the institutions next week, if there is suspension we want to make it very clear that the institutions of the agreement will have been injured but they have not been crippled,” he said.
“Whilst next week could bring a lot of difficulties we cannot make the agenda become an orgy of mutual recrimination.”
Mr Durkan made clear that the SDLP would not support a motion to exclude Sinn Fein from the power-sharing executive as Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble is demanding.
However he acknowledged that the Ulster Unionists could not be expected to go on sitting alongside Sinn Fein in the executive in the current circumstances.
“The reality is that it is no more tenable to ask the SDLP to support an exclusion motion than it is to ask the Ulster Unionists to continue indefinitely in the institutions in these circumstances,” he said.
Mr Durkan acknowledged there were concerns on both sides of the community but said that it was up to Republicans to address the issues surrounding the recent IRA activities.
“The best way people could be reassured was if there was no more IRA for people to worry about,” he said.
“That is an issue that is going to have to be addressed.”