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Durkan indulging in fantasy politics - Anderson

8 September, 2008

Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson (Foyle) has accused local MP Mark Durkan of indulging in fantasy politics if he thinks that unionists are ready to treat nationalist rights and entitlements with respect never mind equality.

Ms. Anderson was speaking after the Foyle MP called for the scrapping of the safeguards contained in the Good Friday Agreement, which were introduced to protect the rights of nationalists against a repeat of the unionist hegemony of the past.

Martina Anderson said:

"I am absolutely astounded that Mark Durkan is supporting the scrapping of vital safeguards which are there to guarantee the democratic rights of the nationalist community."

"In this, the 40th anniversary year of the Civil Rights campaign, he is advocating the removal of the safeguards that were painstakingly secured in prolonged negotiations culminating in the Good Friday Agreement. Does Mark Durkan expect anyone to believe that unionists are ready to accept equality and the needs of the nationalist community as a normal part of politics here.

"If this is the case then Mark needs to explain to the nationalist electorate exactly what he bases this belief on.

"The DUP have shown over recent times that they are in a place that they don't want to be - sharing power with republicans and nationalists. They have demonstrated that even with the safeguards in the Agreement for all citizens, including unionists that they will not, voluntarily deliver on their commitments. It is only because of Sinn Féin's determination and leadership within the Executive that they are being forced to move.

"Mark's latest foray into fantasy politics reflects a penchant for sound bites rather than sound thinking. The SDLP leader's assertion that the proposed Bill of Rights would afford sufficient protection for the rights of nationalists and republicans does not stand scrutiny.

"Unlike Mark, I was a member of the Bill of Rights Forum so I know from first-hand experience the kind of resistance we faced from the unionist parties in terms of securing a strong Bill.

"That process is still not complete, therefore we still haven't seen the final document. I want to see a strong, enforceable Bill of Rights, which would be complimentary to the safeguards in the GFA. Not one or the other but both.

"And contrary to what Mark would like people to believe, Sinn Féin negotiated changes to the Ministerial code, not to exclude any party from office but to close the loop-holes.

"Under the new code the opt-out position that the DUP operated under the Trimble/Durkan administration was removed. The DUP, as are all parties, is now obligated to attend all Executive and all-Ireland Ministerial Council meetings and fully participate in partnership government.

"For someone who regularly gives the impression that he negotiated the GFA single-handedly, Mark obviously does not understand it. Just so that he is clear what it says about Ministries I would point out that under the 1998 Act it clearly states that ministerial offices shall not exceed 10 and that if there is to be a new department or an existing one dissolved it can only be done with approval by the Assembly passed with cross community support - so he clearly does not understand the GFA. When, not if, Sinn Féin has Policing and Justice transferred to the Executive that is the basis that it will have to be dealt with. No party has an absolute right to the Justice Ministry." ENDS

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