Sinn Fein was accused today by a nationalist rival of an about-turn on the reconvening of a body involving political parties in Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Nationalist SDLP Assembly member Patricia Lewsley welcomed comments from former Sinn Fein minister Bairbre de Brun that the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation could have a useful role in the current political deadlock.
The SDLP MLA for Lagan Valley said: “We have been calling for the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation to be reconvened alongside all-party talks.
“The SDLP believe that it will be an important mechanism in dealing with many of the confidence issues that exist in the process.
“Amongst other things it can provide a platform to deal with the issue of unity and consent.
“When it met before, Sinn Fein would not agree the principle of consent.
“But when they accepted the Good Friday Agreement, they accepted consent. Meeting now, the Forum could conclude definitively on this issue.”
Last week, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced that the Forum would meet again for the first time in six years following the suspension of devolution in Northern Ireland.
The Forum was initially established by former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds in 1994 in the wake of the IRA ceasefire.
The SDLP, Sinn Fein and the cross-community Alliance Party all participated.
Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the Progressive Democrats were all involved.
Trade unionists, business leaders, prison groups and representatives of the voluntary sector all made submissions
Former South African President F W de Klerk addressed the Forum and former US Senator and later Northern Ireland talks chairman George Mitchell also spoke.
However, Unionist parties boycotted the Forum which met in Dublin.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced that the Forum would meet later this month in Dublin under the chairmanship of Maurice Hayes, a former civil servant and Ombudsman in Northern Ireland.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan has in recent weeks urged political parties in Northern Ireland and Ireland to use the Forum to reaffirm their commitment to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement before or after a united Ireland.
Mrs Lewsley today said the SDLP wanted the Forum “to agree” on the future shape of a united Ireland.
“Our vision of a united Ireland is one based on equality where the same rights, protections and inclusion that nationalists sought within Northern Ireland while it is in the United Kingdom must equally be guaranteed to Unionists within a united Ireland.
“I welcome the fact that Sinn Fein’s Bairbre de Brun now believes that the Forum could play a useful role in resolving the current impasse.
“When we first proposed the idea of recalling the Forum, Sinn Fein was opposed to the idea.
“I’m glad they are now persuaded by our argument that it will provide an important role in moving out of this crisis.”