Alliance Party Leader David Ford MLA has accused the SDLP of being disingenuous in how it has presented the debate on the future of the Agreement.
Mr Ford stressed that any proposals coming from the British and Irish Governments would be directed at bridging the gaps between the parties rather than conceding to one party’s agenda.
David Ford said:
“The SDLP is not being realistic about the choices facing Northern Ireland today.
“The choice is not between defending the Agreement precisely as it stands and giving into the DUP demands. Instead, the choice is whether we make sensible reforms to the Agreement, or let it die.
“It is an old trick in Northern Ireland politics to scaremonger, to build up a false threat that must be resisted. But the reality is that while the DUP has rightly pointed out many deficiencies with the Agreement, their original proposals for reform are not runners.
“It might have been easier if the last election had not thrown up the balance of power that it did, but we all have to deal with the situation that exists today. If Northern Ireland people wish to take control of their own future, rather than letting outsiders continue to impose decisions upon us, that means creating the context for the DUP to buy into the Agreement and work its institutions.
“I am disappointed that other parties have not been able to show the vision and creativity necessary, and that progress may now depend on a paper from the two Governments. But it is safe to say that those proposals will be within the fundamentals of the Agreement. Both Governments are clear that the fundamentals of the Agreement are sacrosanct, but equally clear that a degree of reform is both an institutional imperative and a political necessity.
“If and when the Governments do bring forward their proposals, they will reflect a best guess effort at bridging the gaps. By themselves, these proposals are not going to resolve all of the problems with the Agreement. Furthermore, any new administration is going to be placed on a very fragile basis. This process is going to need continued commitment if it is to work.
“It is unclear as to why the SDLP is so opposed to putting in place measures to enhance collective responsibility and the accountability of ministers. Yes, the DUP have a poor record in local government. On previous form, people are right to be wary of what they may do in government. Surely, the logic is to try to put in place as many safeguards as possible.
“Are parties going to sit on their hands, or are they going to rise to the challenge? I rather fear that the SDLP have chosen the former.”