ic Derry - 'You'll Not Be Ministers Without Us'

'You'll Not Be Ministers Without Us' Feb 6 2004

SINN FEIN'S Chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness has sent out a blunt message to the DUP that they will not be in government here unless it is alongside his party.

Mr. McGuinness was speaking to the 'Journal' after the DUP presented their proposals for a way forward to British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Downing Street yesterday.

The Sinn Fein negotiator said: "While we would not want to prejudge the DUP proposals before they are made public today it has to be made clear to them that if they are intended to subvert or destroy the Good Friday Agreement then they are a non starter.

"As we have made clear from the beginning of the review we will take a great interest in what the DUP have to say as they are the largest unionist party.

"But we have also made it clear that we will not countenance any renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement."

Mr. McGuinness continued: "We are aware that there is a transition going on within the DUP and some of them have tasted power.

"But we also want to make it clear that the only way they are ever going to get back into government is alongside Sinn Fein."

The Sinn Fein chief continued: "It has been made clear by both governments and international opinion that the fundamentals of the Agreement are not up for changing.

"If people want to talk to the DUP about how best the Agreement can be delivered then we have no problem with that but we will be holding the governments, especially the British Government, to their commentary that the Agreement cannot be renegotiated."

Mr. McGuinness said his party was now the largest pro-Agreement party in the Assembly and that the 'rules had changed'.

He added: "There is absolutely no prospect of us agreeing to anything that falls short of the full implementation of the Agreement and we will be pressing the two governments to stand by what is an international treaty.

"At the beginning of the review the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowan, made it clear to all the parties and the British Government that the Good Friday Agreement is regarded as being part of the Irish constitution and so the Irish government have a duty to defend their own constitution."

Mr. McGuinness would not put a time limit for progress to be made in the review although he said it should be wrapped up within a month.

He added: "But the British Government have indicated that they see Easter as some sort of marker where we should have an idea of where we are.

"If at that time there is no indication that the DUP are prepared to make progress then the governments have a duty to move on over the heads of the DUP."

The Sinn Fein leader would not speculate on what might happen if there was still no progress by Easter but added that he was optimistic about the future and saw no point in speculating.

The DUP proposals were not made public but the party has said that they will do so today.

There has been speculation that they favour the devolution of power to the Assembly itself as opposed to the former position of power being devolved to the Executive.

It is also believed that they propose a committee system in the event that the Assembly cannot agree to form an Executive.

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