McGuinness: We need a Plan B if unionists do not deliver

Sinn Féin will be looking to Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair to reactivate cross-border bodies if their plan to achieve powersharing at Stormont by March fails, Martin McGuinness said today.

Sinn Féin will be looking to Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair to reactivate cross-border bodies if their plan to achieve powersharing at Stormont by March fails, Martin McGuinness said today.

In the third of a series of meetings across the North to consider Sinn Féin's proposal for republicans to support the police, the Mid-Ulster MP said there was no way he would ask young nationalists to sign up to a British police service.

Mr McGuinness also told more than 200 republicans in Lurgan that Sinn Féin's opponents would be sorely disappointed if they expected hardline republicans to pose a serious challenge to his party.

Mr McGuinness claimed: "Our approach is a conditional approach.

"We have made it quite clear that if the DUP are not prepared to deliver the Good Friday Agreement, the last point of our motion says that in the event of powersharing not happening, the two governments would have to move on to Plan B.

"We made it clear in the motion that Plan B, the partnership arrangements, have to be acceptable to Sinn Féin and we'll have to contemplate the refusal and failure of the DUP to sign up to powersharing.

"What is Plan B? It is the unfreezing of the all-Ireland institution body. It has to be a further development of those implementation bodies as well, and issues like energy and transport.

"But let us also be clear we are Plan A-ers. We think it is better for the entire process that we have all the powersharing institutions and the all-Ireland institutions up and running, with Ian Paisley in them.

"That would be good psychologically for loyalists and unionists as well."

Sinn Féin is holding public meetings in the build-up to next week's crucial Árd Fheis to debate whether republicans should support the Police Service of Northern Ireland and participate in policing accountability bodies.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have identified Sinn Féin's support for the PSNI as being critical to their hopes of persuading the DUP to share power with republicans by March 26.

Mr McGuinness claimed the DUP had on a number of occasions fallen short of honouring what it had agreed to do to advance efforts to secure power-sharing.

The Sinn Féin chief negotiator said his party had been told that the reason why Mr Paisley had failed to do what was expected of him was he was facing opposition from within his ranks, including oppositions from some MPs such as Gregory Campbell, Nigel Dodds and David Simpson.

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