Given the IRA's continued activity and Sinn Féin's continued denials it is becoming harder for the SDLP to sustain a policy of inclusion, party leader Mark Durkan has warned.
Mr Durkan said the IRA and Sinn Féin should stop narrowing the options for the one remaining party, the SDLP, which had always stood by "inclusion".
There have been calls from other parties to move on politically without Sinn Féin, but Mr Durkan has steadfastly insisted on maintaining his party's current policy.
But now he has sounded what could be interpreted as a caution to republicans about continued IRA activity.
While again emphasising that the SDLP stood clearly and consistently by inclusion, Mr Durkan said: "The problem is, however, that given we are the only party now that has stood fully by inclusion, it gets harder and harder for us to sustain that position.
"Given the strains created around the prospects for the Good Friday Agreement by the IRA's continued activity and by Sinn Féin's continued denials in relation to that, it becomes harder work for the SDLP to do that.
"And in circumstances where Sinn Féin are rejecting what we are putting forward as an inclusive way forward through a restored assembly if Sinn Féin are attacking all our options and if the IRA are undermining the whole case for inclusion then obviously there comes a point where the SDLP are going to have to accept that maybe other parties do have a point, that maybe governments do have a point in some of the questions they are raising.
"So I would ask Sinn Féin and the IRA to stop narrowing the options and stop reducing the case for the one remaining party that has always stood by inclusion."
Mr Durkan said his party would not be taking lectures from Sinn Féin, as it was the party which negotiated inclusion into the agreement.
"When people like Seamus Mallon and I in the detail of the negotiations were negotiating inclusion into the agreement, we were being heckled by people like Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly who were telling us this was a grave mistake and betrayal to be talking about assemblies, executives and all-Ireland ministerial councils.
"We have also fully stood by inclusion. Every time people put down exclusion motions in the assembly, we opposed them.
"We also stood for an inclusive process. It was Sinn Féin who, along with governments and David Trimble, conspired to create an exclusive negotiating process outside of the institutions.
"That exclusive negotiating process helped to undermine the agreement and undermine the inclusion that the agreement was meant to embody.
"Not content with having that exclusive process, then Sinn Féin locked into an exclusive negotiating process involving the DUP and the two governments.
"Not only did they have an exclusive process but they came up with a compact for the exclusion of other parties, because the wording in the declaration document provided for a new piece of legislation to create automatic exclusion of parties that did not go along with this new deal which registered their legitimate democratic difference simply by abstaining. For doing that, the SDLP and the UUP would have been lined up for automatic exclusion.
"So Sinn Féin are in no position to lecture us and to try and seize on distorted reports of what different people in the SDLP have said in response to questions. We stand clearly and consistently on inclusion."
Earlier, Mr Durkan was asked if the British and Irish governments had a clue about what to do in the current political crisis.
He said this was unclear, and one of the things which needed to be avoided was a sense of vacuum and open drift.
"The governments have to give a clear lead," he said.
"The governments have been clear and unambiguous as to their belief about the Northern Bank robbery.
"What we need to get is the governments being fairly clear and fairly positive about how they want to take things forward."
The Foyle assembly member said other parties were now out canvassing their 'plan Bs'.
"Sinn Féin's plan B is joint authority supposedly, which sounds like joint direct rule.
"This sounds a bit strange as Sinn Féin is saying don't go for exclusion or approaches that ignore our mandate, yet advocating an approach which essentially ignores the mandate of all the parties here in the north and appears to canvass an option simply of joint direct rule, but we still have the assembly suspended and everything else suspended.
"The Ulster Unionists are talking about different things on different days about winding up the assembly and things like that to create a shock to the system.
"Then you have the DUP simply bringing back some form of Prior Assembly from the mid-80s just where you have people supposedly scrutinising direct rule that the assembly just has a commentary role on what direct rule is doing.
"So in the current circumstances that is what people are doing. People are also canvassing the option of exclusion and a new variance of exclusion in terms of different models of voluntary coalition.
"Everybody else is now pursuing a plan B in this situation. What the SDLP is advocating is plan 'A minus'.
"It is that you restore the assembly with all its powers and functions so you no longer have suspension. It is only in the event of the parties being unable themselves to form an inclusive executive, you would then have the two government step in to appoint departmental administrators to oversee those departments.
"But the assembly would remain fully up and running with all its legislative and scrutiny and policy development roles. And equally in that situation you would have the north-south ministerial council being able to operate and being restored.
"The difference in what we are saying is that everybody else is advocating departing from the agreement and what we are talking about is returning to the agreement... as much of it as we possibly can."
Mr Durkan added: "If the problem is to do with the IRA's continued activity and their criminality and allegations of it, and that prevents us forming an executive on an inclusive party political basis, then let's confine the difficulty to that, rather than say that difficulty has to be translated into total suspension of everything or worse, the possibility of deep suspension that we now face.
"We are not advocating a quango as Sinn Féin say. Budget, legislation and all the rest of it would all be controlled by the assembly, which would work on an inclusive basis and all parties' mandates would be respected.
"We are the only party at the minute that is not advocating an approach that is about moving against a particular party or moving without a particular party.
"After all, you had the DUP and UUP advocating exclusion of Sinn Féin by a voluntary coalition that leaves them out. Sinn Féin first of all, before Hugh Orde made his statement (on the Northern Bank robbery), were calling on the other parties to move ahead without the DUP."
Mr Durkan said the process should go forward on a basis which respected all parties' mandates but which also recognised the realities that in current circumstances, an inclusive executive was not going to be formed.
The SDLP leader was asked what sanction should apply, if any, if the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) reported that the IRA was responsible for the Northern Bank robbery.
He recalled talks at Hillsborough in the spring of 2003 when the whole question of setting up an international monitoring body was a significant issue.
"Both David Trimble and Sinn Féin announced that the question of sanctions were a deal breaker," he said.
"We put forward a very clear position at that time that we had no problem with the idea of a monitoring body that could make calls and make assessments in relation to paramilitary activity and in relation to whether or not the British government was delivering on demilitarisation etc.
"However, we said we wanted an approach that was focused on solutions rather than sanctions
"That is why we did not support that legislation at Westminster. Sinn Féin lie that we supported that legislation which provided for sanctions.
We opposed the whole idea of sanctions direct coming from the secretary of state.
"We are not caught in any situation where we are either canvassing particular sanctions to come from the IMC or anybody else at this stage."
Mr Durkan said a lot of people were also running around at the moment with silly ideas on sanctions in the area of cutting political funding, and shutting offices at Westminster.
He said these were sideshow issues and not where the focus should be.
"The idea that the answer to this is to try and cut Sinn Féin and the republican movement down to size financially is not going to deliver anything," he said.
"What we need to create in this situation is an awareness and a recognition for the first time in a number of years is that this is going to be a process of equals. And that Sinn Féin are not to be allowed any political advantages precisely because they are linked to the IRA.
"The way in which this process has been managed over the last number of years has advantaged Sinn Féin precisely because of their links with the IRA. They have had an added currency in this, as Tony Blair has said to us on three different occasions 'You guys... your problem is you don't have any guns'.
"So, governments making clear they have come to the end of the road in that sort of foolish approach that elevates Sinn Féin's position above and beyond all others and contorts this process that is the main message that has to come out now. People should not be looking around for silly, frilly things like closing off an office to them here and closing off an allowance to them there.
"If we have a process of equals that means all of us then have to address all of the problems and we have to recognise we are not going to make progress without each other and we are not going to make progress against each other. That is the big lesson every party in this process needs to learn."
The big picture, Mr Durkan added, had to be how to get the Good Friday Agreement moving again.
"The big picture is not what are the sanctions that we deploy against Sinn Féin. It is about giving the people what they voted for when they voted for the agreement."
The SDLP leader said on the question of paramilitaries, both loyalist and republican, anybody breaking the law should be pursued and dealt with accordingly.
"Some people seem to be suggesting at the minute the IRA have been hard done by that they have been blamed for this particular robbery. Some people are suggesting that Hugh Orde has acted as judge, jury and executioner by making the call that he made, or that somehow that IRA has been libelled," he said.
"The reality is that we in the past have demanded that the police say what loyalist organisations they were attributing particular crimes to and that they don't maintain an evasive silence on that. We have demanded that secretaries of state address those issues and name the loyalists that they were being given intelligence on.
"What would be wrong however would be for us, the SDLP, to say just because we believe Hugh Orde to move to the equivalent of a conviction and sentence in political terms, which is why we are not calling for exclusion and voluntary coalition."
Questioned about comments by senior SDLP members Eddie McGrady and Alasdair McDonnell in recent days, Mr Durkan was asked did this not indicate some differences inside the party on exclusion?
He said: "Well no. Both Eddie and Alasdair were responding to questions that were being put to them and those questions relate to ideas which are being canvassed by other parties, and government is asking the parties about.
"Neither of them said they favoured voluntary coalition. Neither of them advocated exclusion or anything else. Each of them reflected that in the face of current difficulties and possibly other difficulties, that because these problems are there and ideas are being canvassed that we would have to consider them.
"What I am telling you is the considered view on the option of voluntary coalition and exclusion now and we were able to reflect on these at our group meeting.
"When we face the broad options put forward by others deep suspension on the one hand and exclusion on the other we don't accept either of those.
"We stand behind the Good Friday Agreement."