There has been a stark difference between the willingness shown by the Irish Government on the Haass/O’Sullivan process and the reticence of the British Government.
The Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has said that the two governments were ‘determined that we should not allow these issues to drift’ and that if there is an intervention it will come from ‘both governments together’ and that both governments are agreed that this is something that they will work on ‘together’.
In response the NIO ‘spokesperson’ (not even the Secretary of State personally) said that the UK government will merely ‘continue to encourage the NI political parties’ and that there ‘can be no question of imposing a set of solutions from the outside’.
This has distanced the UK Government from the Tanaiste’s statement and created more uncertainty. The SDLP agree with the Tánaiste’s assertion that there is an urgency about getting the issues addressed in the Haass/O’Sullivan process resolved.
We said from the start of the process that the British and Irish Governments needed to use their authority as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement to help to implement the outcome.
It is evident that the Irish Government want to move the process forward as do the SDLP. We have been very clear, what is required now is implementation and legislation.
Our belief and preference is that the necessary implementation should come from the five parties locally but, if that can only happen through joint intervention from both governments then, so be it.
Unionists need to be aware. The absence of implementation and legislation of Haass/O’Sullivan leaves a vacuum and that vacuum will be filled. Unionists and the UK Government have a choice now about whether that vacuum will be filled with positive and constructive frameworks that allow healing and prosperity or with organisations and activity that cannot and will not unite our people.