Former Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson today appealed to former colleagues to work with his party in the run up to next month’s crucial peace process talks.
Democratic Unionist party member Donaldson, who defected from David Trimble’s UUP in January, insisted both parties should work together to broker a deal to kick-start the peace process.
The Lagan Valley MP also told the Parnell Summer School in Avondale, Co Wicklow that the best way for the British and Irish governments to secure a deal was to encourage the two parties to work side by side.
“What we are saying to the Ulster Unionist Party is to come and work with us, and that I think is in the best interests of the UUP,” Mr Donaldson said.
“See how we can help each other and see how we can secure the deal. But if the deal is not right, the deal won‘t be done.”
Talks involving Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Tony Blair and Northern Ireland’s politicians are due to take place in Leeds castle in Maidstone in England next month.
They are hoping to strike a deal which will restart the power-sharing executive at Stormont, suspended since October 2002.
The institutions were placed in deep freeze by the British government over allegations that an IRA spy ring was operating at Stormont.
Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan ruled earlier this month that a dramatic police raid on Sinn Féin’s Stormont offices was not politically motivated but she criticised the way officers conducted the operation.
Joining Mr Donaldson for the peace process debate were Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald, Ulster Unionist Assembly member Alan McFarland and nationalist SDLP councillor Eamonn O’Neill.
Ms McDonald insisted the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement was key to any deal.
“Despite the protestations of the DUP and others it is the delivery of the Good Friday Agreement agenda which will be at the core of any political deal,” she said.
“Sinn Féin’s objective going into the negotiations in September is to end the crisis in the process and restore the political institutions.”
The Dublin MEP said there were four key areas to be addressed in order to strike a deal.
All parties would have to fully participate in the political institutions and they would also have to address the issues of policing and justice.
They also had to focus on the issue of armed groups and weapons and the need to ensure human rights, equality and an end to sectarianism, she insisted.
Ms McDonald said while the British government held the pivotal role in creating the context for a settlement, they had so far shown little taste for the challenge.