Page last updated at 18:03 GMT, Saturday, 23 January 2010

Sinn Fein want 'critical and defining' policing meeting

Gerry Adams: "This is not a game of poker"

Northern Ireland's deputy first minister is to seek an urgent meeting with the leader of the DUP over the devolution of policing and justice.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the meeting between Martin McGuinness and NI's First Minister, Peter Robinson, would be "defining and critical".

But he stopped short of saying the party was pulling Mr McGuinness out of the power-sharing Stormont Executive

He was speaking after Sinn Fein leaders met in Dublin to discuss the situation.

The meeting of the party's executive came after the intensive talks it had held with the DUP over the past two weeks ended in acrimony.

Unsustainable institutions

Addressing the media in Dublin, Mr Adams accused the DUP of failing to honour their obligations under the terms of the 2006 St Andrews Agreement.

No self respecting public representative or political party would want to be part of what would be nothing less than a charade.
Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein

He warned that if the Northern Ireland institutions were not working as they were supposed to, they would become unsustainable.

He said the British and Irish governments must act not as referees in the talks process, but as "guarantors, with responsibilities and obligations".

Mr Adams added: "What we are about is fixing the problems and returning to the basis upon which these institutions were established - the Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Agreement.

"If that is not possible then no self respecting public representative or political party would want to be part of what would be nothing less than a charade."

Resignation threat

Mark Simpson
Mark Simpson, BBC Ireland correspondent
If Sinn Fein eventually end up walking away from Stormont, it will go down in history as the long goodbye.

Before Christmas, they made it clear they were unhappy; they did so again immediately after Christmas; and now they have warned once more that the Stormont Assembly may be unsustainable.

In spite of these concerns, they are still there. And they will be back round the negotiating table with the DUP leader Peter Robinson on Monday.

So are they bluffing? Is Martin McGuinness really prepared to resign as deputy first minister and trigger an Assembly election? We will find out soon.

The difficulty for both parties is that the problems they failed to sort out last week are the very same problems they face this week.

The only thing that might change is that the British and Irish prime ministers might fly in to Stormont to help.

They may need to bring with them a political magic wand.

Sinn Fein and the DUP - the two biggest political parties in Northern Ireland - have been arguing for months over the transfer of policing and justice powers from Westminster to Stormont.

Sinn Fein want the completion of devolution to happen as soon as possible, but the DUP have argued that there must be "community confidence" before the powers are put in the hands of local politicians.

If Sinn Fein were to decide that Martin McGuinness should resign, the joint nature of the roles of first and deputy first ministers would mean that Peter Robinson would also be forced out of office.

If there were no agreed re-appointments to the posts within seven days, an assembly election would have to be called.

The BBC's Ireland correspondent, Mark Simpson said there would be huge sighs of relief in Dublin, Belfast and London that despite his anger, Gerry Adams had decided to "talk rather than walk".

He said Mr Adams had "made it very clear that he doesn't necessarily believe that the talking is going to do any good, but if you were the British or Irish prime minister, if you were the DUP leader sitting watching this this afternoon, your big fear was that Gerry Adams would come out and say 'it's over, we've had enough, we're going to walk away from Stormont' - he didn't say that."

Endangering the process

In response to Mr Adams' statement, a DUP spokesman said they were "ready to discuss the outstanding matters" as they had been last week.

On Friday, the DUP leader said he was surprised by Sinn Fein's announcement that they considered the latest talks over policing and justice to be over.

Mr Robinson said he felt some progress had been made, adding: "Anyone who steps away from the table at this stage endangers the whole process."

Speaking after Mr Adams' statement on Saturday, the leader of the nationalist SDLP, Mark Durkan, said: "The public and politics need leadership now not brinkmanship.

"They will want to know all parties are making collective efforts to take things forward not hold them up or pull them down."

The issue of Orange Order parades has been a sticking point bewtween Sinn Fein and the DUP.

Sinn Fein has resisted DUP efforts to replace the body which adjudicates on contentious marches, the Parades Commission, with an alternative along the lines of interim proposals produced by a group headed by Lord Ashdown.

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