Alliance publishes response to ‘comprehensive agreement’

PROGRESS in a number of areas has been matched by the creation of more problems, the Alliance Party has said in its response to the Government’s ‘comprehensive agreement’.

Party Leader David Ford stated:

“There has been substantial progress on certain issues, and at last the DUP has accepted the principles of the Agreement as the basis for restoring devolution. Sinn Féin is now prepared to accept policing arrangements and the potential is there for full IRA decommissioning.

“But that does not mean that all is rosy in the garden – far from it.

“The proposals from the Governments are directed purely at finding agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein to establish the conditions to allow the restoration of the institutions of the Agreement, and to facilitate the further implementation of the Agreement.

“Yet the Governments have not yet recognised that there are broader problems with the Agreement and its operation that indeed manifested themselves prior to November 2003, notably in November 2001.

“While the Governments’ proposals may enable an Executive to be set up, there can be little confidence that they would ensure that the institutions were placed on a sustainable and equitable basis.”

Mr Ford highlighted major areas of concern for Alliance.

“There has been no indication from the IRA that it is prepared to accept Paragraph 13 of last year’s Joint Declaration. Their proposed statement remains ambiguous.

“However, the Governments seem quite prepared to let the IRA continue to determine the definition of its own ceasefire. The lack of clarity in the wholly inadequate IRA statement means that it would be able to continue to engage in a range of paramilitary and criminal activity, so long as ‘British interests’ are not targeted.

“That will come as cold comfort to democrats and supporters of human rights and the rule of law. By concentrating on photographic evidence of IRA decommissioning, recent talks have been sidetracked away from the real issue – an end to all paramilitary activity.

“Disgracefully, the proposals do not even mention community relations. Despite repeated calls for the Government’s ‘Shared Future’ paper to be implemented, and private assurances, no action has yet been taken.

“The ethos of integration in a ‘Shared Future’ stands in stark contrast to the culture of separation promoted in the Governments’ proposals. Not only does it fail to deal with sectarianism in the Assembly, it actually further entrenches it.

“The proposal that Assembly candidates would be required to sign up to the sectarian designations system before they could even stand for election stinks and is breach of European Human Rights legislation. It will be the cause of further division.

“Unless and until the Governments wake up to the fact that they cannot continue to operate apartheid policies, there can be no real hope of stable devolved government in Northern Ireland.”

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