There is no inclusion in the new agreement

(Mark Durkan, Irish News)

Sinn Féin and the SDLP have clashed on the merits of the potential
deal almost agreed between the DUP and republicans. Here SDLP leader
Mark Durkan argues that the proposed new deal would weaken the
fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement, while Sinn Féin president
Gerry Adams says the SDLP is wrong and arguing against the deal for
party-political reasons.

The governments have published a new "Comprehensive Agreement" so the
public can debate it.

As a party that did not negotiate this "Agreement" we believe there
is a lot to debate – and it's not just about photos.

First, to be clear: there are things in the 'Comprehensive Agreement'
that the SDLP warmly welcomes.

We welcome the IRA's commitment to decommissioning.

We welcome the DUP's commitment to power-sharing.

Both of these are requirements of the Good Friday Agreement. We want
to see them delivered – not just on paper but on the ground.

The SDLP does not want to jeopardise any of this important progress.

But we also cannot be dishonest with the electorate.

Where there are problems, we have to say so.

That's why we are upfront that this new Agreement weakens important
fundamentals of the real agreement – the Good Friday Agreement.

When the SDLP negotiated the Good Friday Agreement, we insisted all
parties should have the right to be included in government on the
basis of their democratic mandate – no more and no less.

That's why the DUP and Sinn Féin were both entitled to their seats in
government even though they did not vote for Seamus Mallon and David
Trimble as First and Deputy First Minister.

That's gone now.

Now if the SDLP – or any party – registers dissent with the new
regime introduced by this deal and the changes to the Good Friday
Agreement, we will be automatically excluded from government. That's
automatic exclusion – without a debate, without a vote and without
having done anything wrong.

This is totally unprecedented. It is against the Agreement – and it
is against the whole principle of inclusion.

Inclusion is about respect for difference and respect for all
mandates. Automatic exclusion strips away and shatters both of these.

The governments say that it was not the DUP that put automatic
exclusion into this deal.

We want to know who did, and why? Why does any party want others to
be automatically excluded, especially when this 'Comprehensive
Agreement' is meant to end all the problems and difficulties of the
last few years?

The damage to inclusion does not stop there.

The DUP have also got a veto over the appointment of nationalist

That's because the Executive now has to be voted in by a majority of
unionists and a majority of nationalists in the Assembly.

The DUP has the majority of unionist votes.

So if they don't want a nationalist or a republican to hold for
example the sensitive education or justice portfolios, all they need
do is threaten to vote against the new Executive if this happens.

Sinn Féin at first denied that this was a new veto.

Now, however, they accept that it is – but argue that it doesn't
matter because if the veto is exercised, there will have to be fresh
Assembly elections. But that won't scare the DUP.

They will be happy to seek the backing of the unionist electorate for
their stance.

The damage to the Agreement goes further still.

The DUP has also won a veto over the decisions of nationalist
ministers, exactly what the SDLP argued against and resisted at Leeds

There are problems on North/South too.

We welcome the commitment to the North South Parliament-ary Forum –
which the last Executive already agreed.

But given that the DUP in government refused to work in the North
South Ministerial Council, they should have been pressed to agree
upfront to new areas for North South cooperation and implementation.

That way nationalists would know that their obstructionist tactics
were over.

Instead, there is a review of North South which could recommend more
North South work – or less. Either way, the DUP can stop anything
going ahead. And it does not end there.

The DUP has been given secret "clarification" on over 40 separate
issues from the British government. Apparently, no other party has
seen this clarification.

We are demanding that it be published – and the public have the
chance to debate it too.

How did all this come about? By private negotiations between the DUP
and Sinn Féin, using the two governments as intermediaries. The
secretive and exclusive nature of those negotiations allowed parties
to put their own private interests – and private armies – ahead of
the public interest.

Instead of resisting vetoes which the DUP will use to humiliate
nationalists again and again in government, Sinn Féin worried about
the governments' compromise proposal on photos.

Instead of getting the Good Friday Agreement honoured by all parties,
the DUP got a contrived "Comprehensive Agree-ment" to supersede it.

Instead of the Agreement's inclusive politics, we have the politics
of automatic exclusion – to be used against parties that register
their concern about the dilution of the Agreement.

If that is not a weakening of the Agreement's fundamentals, then
nothing is.

December 21, 2004

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?