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SDLP join with DUP in bid to exclude Sinn Féin and undermine GFA

20 February, 2006

Speaking after talks in Stormont this afternoon Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP said that it was becoming clear that the SDLP had moved onto the DUP agenda of exclusion and arrangements much less than the those demanded by the Good Friday Agreement. Mr Doherty's remarks came after the two governments confirmed to Sinn Féin that the SDLP and DUP had agreed to take part in round table discussions excluding Sinn Féin, a proposal which was even rejected by the UUP.

Mr Doherty said:

"In our discussions this afternoon the two governments indicated that they wished to press ahead with a round table meeting involving the DUP and the other parties but excluding Sinn Féin. We told the two governments in no uncertain terms that this approach was completely unacceptable and it was simply not an option to try and exclude the vast majority of nationalist opinion from such dialogue.

"It also became clear that the UUP were not onboard for such an approach being adopted but that the SDLP and DUP had indeed signed on for the exclusion of the largest nationalist party from the round table.

"The SDLP now have serious questions to answer. It was the SDLP who complained bitterly that they were excluded by the two governments from playing a full role in the talks of late 2004 yet have now aligned themselves with Ian Paisley and the DUP in trying to exclude nationalist and republican opinion from these discussions.

"It is also clear that the SDLP have now departed fundamentally from the Good Friday Agreement and the principles which underpin it. In 2004 the SDLP proposed replacing elected politicians with British appointed commissioners. Earlier this year Dominic Bradley indicated that the SDLP were considering options short of the Good Friday Agreement institutions. They have now clearly demonstrated by their actions today that for reasons of political expediency they are prepared to abandon the Agreement and the principles which underpin it." ENDS

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