Governments challenged over plans on agreement

The Irish and British governments were today challenged to release their plan to implement the Good Friday Agreement when they convene talks aimed at restoring devolution.

The Irish and British governments were today challenged to release their plan to implement the Good Friday Agreement when they convene talks aimed at restoring devolution.

After a meeting in Belfast with Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, Sinn Fein’s Bairbre de Brun called for “a more dynamic approach” to the implementation of the Agreement by the two governments.

The former Stormont Health Minister also brushed aside comments by British Prime Minister Tony Blair that the time had come for republicans to complete the transition from paramilitarism to politics.

Mr Blair said in an interview with an Irish newspaper that republicans could no longer remain “half-in, half-out” of the process.

He said: “When I talk about acts of completion, what I mean is that we need to try and do this in a big step forward, where the British Government fulfils the mandate, the paramilitaries realise they can no longer use force in order to pursue political ends and we reach a situation where Northern Ireland’s politics do truly become normal in the sense that there is no mixing of paramilitary activity and politics.”

But after meeting Mr Cowen with Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness, Ms de Brun said: “Tony Blair has admitted in the interview, as he did in his speech to the Belfast Harbour Commissioners last month, that the British Government has not honoured all its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement.

“We raised with Mr Cowen today the idea of the prism of unionism being used to slow down the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the achievement of basic rights and equality.

“These cannot be used as bargaining chips. There is a need for a dynamic approach to the implementation of the Agreement, a realisation that we need a partnership approach.”

The West Belfast MLA expressed concern about the arrest and interrogation of a civil servant over allegations that republicans operated a spy ring at the heart of the Northern Ireland office and the devolved administration at Stormont.

“I would hope that there is not a witch-hunt going on against civil servants who come from Catholic working class areas,” Ms de Brun said.

The Sinn Fein MLA also said the reconvening of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation later this month in Dublin could play “a useful role” in resolving the current political deadlock but she insisted it was “no substitute” for the devolved institutions suspended last month.

“It is crucial that the political institutions are back up and running,” she said.

“The absence of the institutions is debilitating. If the process is to move forward, if it is to thrive, we need to demonstrate that politics is working.

“We need a process of dynamic change. We need issues like policing and demilitarisation to be advanced as well as the delivery of the human rights and equality agenda.”

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