Alliance MLA Seamus Close has challenged SDLP Leader, Mark Durkan, to come out from behind his empty rhetoric and answer a number of questions over what role his party is prepared to play in efforts to restore devolution.
Seamus Close stated:
“It is time that Mark Durkan came out from behind his empty rhetoric, and answered some searching questions as to what, if anything, the SDLP is prepared to do to stop the democratic process being held hostage by Republicans.
“The SDLP say that they are opposed to ‘silly sanctions’. Are they therefore prepared to consider serious sanctions or are they opposed to all sanctions?”
Mr Close said that Mr Durkan has also recently stated that the way to deal with Republicans is “also by showing Sinn Fein that they do not have a veto on progress. For so long as Sinn Fein believes that nothing can be done politically without their say so, the provisional movement will think that it can get away with as much crime as it likes.”
“Does this mean that the SDLP is prepared to support and participate in an alternative cross-community Executive that does not include Republicans? This is surely the implication of this comment. If not, then what does it mean?
“The SDLP Leader has also made remarks that his party would be prepared to support exclusion in the event that the IRA broke its ‘ceasefire’. What exactly does this mean? Does it mean that the SDLP would be prepared to act if the IRA murdered a member of the security forces or a perceived Protestant, but that when the IRA murders Catholics then they will sit on their hands? All human life is of equal worth. Surely the SDLP does not accept the IRA definition of ‘ceasefire’? Do they not accept that it is time to forget about arbitrary definitions of ‘ceasefires’ and focus on the end to all paramilitary and criminal violence?
“The Good Friday Agreement makes clear that where a party is in major default of their obligations to peaceful and non-violent means it should be excluded from any Executive. Article 30 of the Northern Ireland Act states that this should happen where a party no longer carries the confidence of the Assembly. Is there anyone who still believes that Republicans have honoured the commitments that they made? Does Sinn Fein still have the confidence of the SDLP? If not, is the SDLP prepared to honour this aspect of the Agreement, or do they adopt a cherry picking attitude towards the Agreement?