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Bloody Sunday, election, Irish, Ireland, British, Ulster, Unionist, Sinn Féin, SDLP, Ahern, Blair, Irish America

Unionists hope for Stormont breakthrough

(by Liam Clarke, Sunday Times)

British officials and some Democratic Unionist Party sources are hopeful of a breakthrough in talks with Sinn Féin to end the political stalemate over policing.

The power sharing executive has not met since June because Sinn Féin ministers refuse to attend. Republicans are trying to bring pressure on the DUP to agree a date for the devolution of policing and justice and move on a number of other issues. In response the DUP have vetoed meetings of the North South ministerial council and held back spending announcements.

This has created an increasingly poisonous atmosphere between the two parties with each trying to open up divisions in the ranks of the other. Adams has accused some DUP member of being bigots while the Robinson described the Sinn Féin President of as a "sad spectacle" who was trying to stir up trouble because he was a minister in the executive.

Last night (Saturday) Sammy Wilson, a DUP minister, accused Adams of trying to bring down the executive.

"Some members of Sinn Fen are work well with us but there is an element, including Gerry Adams, who seem to want direct rule back so they can negotiate directly with the Prime Minister" he said.

"I really do think that Gerry Addams has made the choice that it would be better if London took over. That is why he is creating a crisis and trying to blame the DUP. He is painting things in a way that will appeal to his supporters but which will get a result his supporters don't like – the return of direct rule."

The constant wrangling between the two parties has led to a loss of public confidence in the power sharing administration. Last week a Queen's University survey found that four out of five chief executives in major Northern Ireland public and private sector organisations believed devolution was now hindering the economy. This contrasts with the positive attitude of business when power sharing was frist agreed.

A DUP senior backbencher said "we can all see that the longer this deadlock lasts the greater the disillusioned in the community. Both sides, ourselves and Sinn Féin, have more to loose if it breaks down. It is tense just now but I believe you will start to see green shoots within the next four or five weeks."

One move being considered is the appointment of a Policing and Justice Minister designate, probably David Ford of the Alliance party, as part of a phased move towards full devolution. This could occur shortly after the DUP conference at the end of the month.

October 21, 2008
________________

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times on October 19, 2008.

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