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SDLP Talking With Unionists On Arrangements Short OF GFA

17 January, 2006

Sinn Féin MP for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy has challenged the SDLP to come clean about their discussions with unionists about diluting the power-sharing arrangements of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr. Murphy said:

"As a precursor to planned political talks next month the two governments need to make it clear to the parties that the only basis for moving forward is the route mapped out in the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Féin will not countenance a move away from the fundamental principles which underpin that Agreement.

“However I understand that the SDLP have been engaged in discussions with unionists on the basis of arrangements outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

“This is disappointing.

“Nine months ago the SDLP put forward proposals which involved scrapping the power sharing executive and replacing it with administrators, appointed by the governments, to run the various government departments.

“This was unacceptable then and it is unacceptable now.

“Power-sharing and inclusivity are at the core of the Agreement. This is what was agreed by the parties and endorsed in referendum by the vast majority of the people in referenda north and south.

“The irony is we are at the point where unionist political leaders have no longer any excuse for refusing to re-engage in the institutions on the basis of the Agreement.

“So, just as the governments are about to convene a new round of round of political negotiations involving all the parties next month, anti-Agreement unionists will be well pleased to hear that the SDLP are prepared to settle for less than the full restoration of the political institutions.

“The SDLP proposals provide unionists with a basis for further procrastination and some encouragement that they may achieve a major dilution of the Agreement.

“Settling for less than power-sharing will reopen the prospect of a return to unionist party rule in the north.

“The SDLP must clarify where they stand with regard to power-sharing

“Any dilution of the power-sharing arrangements which underpin the Agreement will undermine efforts to bring about full restoration of the political institutions.” ENDS

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