Durkan: Key week ahead for the North

Northern Ireland’s political parties owe it to themselves to collectively create a normal society, the leader of the SDLP, Mark Durkan argued tonight.

Northern Ireland’s political parties owe it to themselves to collectively create a normal society, the leader of the SDLP, Mark Durkan argued tonight.

The former Stormont Deputy First Minister told a dinner in honour of the SDLP in Waterford tonight that the week ahead would be crucial for parties.

With British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern due at Hillsborough Castle next Wednesday for meetings with political leaders, the Foyle MLA said his party would be stressing the need for everybody to secure the “complete implementation” of the Good Friday Agreement.

“A contract for completion will provide collective certainty about the full delivery and development of the Agreement, instead of the collective ambiguity that has made the implementation of some parts hostages to the interpretation of other parts,” he argued.

“Parties who have made different but decisive contributions to this whole process and the Agreement owe it to themselves to move forward on a basis of collective certainty.

“They owe it to each other and they certainly owe it to the people.”

Mr Durkan said he would continue to press for the normalisation of every aspect of society.

The SDLP, he noted, had launched its proposals for an unarmed police service in unfortified police stations as part of its contribution to the process of normalisation.

“We are also in intensive negotiations with the two governments on the total overhaul of the criminal justice system,” the SDLP leader confirmed.

“There is no point in having a reformed police without also having a reformed prosecution service.”

Tonight’s dinner in Waterford was in honour of Mr Durkan, former leader John Hume and former Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon.

Among the guests was singer-songwriter, Juliet Turner, who performed afterwards.

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