‘Ring the General, Mr O’Neill’ – Ford

ALLIANCE Leader David Ford has said that if the chance to make a deal is not taken this week, Northern Ireland will lose the greatest opportunity to deliver sustainable devolved government for at least a decade.

He has called on P O’Neill, the IRA ‘spokesman’, to contact General de Chastelain by Tuesday afternoon for discussions on the final acts of Decommissioning.

Mr Ford said: “It is over a decade since the first IRA ceasefire and it will be another ten years before the Assembly is restored if this opportunity is not taken before Wednesday.

“For nationalists and republicans, there is the prize of a sustainable, devolved power-sharing government on offer. For unionists, an end to the IRA as a paramilitary group and more accountable government is in their grasp.

“I believe that the DUP is now serious about working with other parties, but I can understand why Republicans point to the record of the DUP as one of refusal to share power. They need to listen to what Ian Paisley said last week, when he said that he would share power if the IRA decommissioned its weapons.

“It’s time to put Dr Paisley to the test, to create the circumstances in which to ask him to bite his lip, and live up to his promises.

“We have the prospect of a real peace dividend to build confidence in the restored structures and bring visible benefits to Northern Ireland. If the Assembly is restored, undemocratic NIO decisions on water charges, rates and rail closures can be rolled back.

“This week, for everyone, there is the vision of our own government, an end of all paramilitary activity and a peace package that will help upgrade our decaying infrastructure. Refusing to accept this opportunity would be a crushing blow.

“We have wasted enough chances in the Last Chance Saloon. The time for talking is over, and the time for taking positive action has arrived. P O’Neill must ring General de Chastelain immediately, before the chance is lost.”

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