27 March 2007

Paisley’s Statement

Both Paisley’s and Adams’s statements yesterday are well worth reading, Both are taken from today’s Independent . After so many years of “no surrender” rhetoric, Paisley’s words are those of a politician looking to get down to the business of running a country. There will be plenty of squabbles and rows in the months and years to come, but the DUP and Sinn Fein have created a golden opportunity. I hope they do not fail by reverting to past types and reopening wounds.

“In 2003 the DUP became the largest political party in Northern Ireland and the last three and a half years has seen our strategy deliver very significant advances for the Unionist people.

"Our goal has been to see devolution returned in a context where it can make a real and meaningful improvement in the lives of all the people of this part of the United Kingdom. On 7 March, the Unionist community gave us a mandate to deliver on this pledge.

"On Saturday the DUP executive overwhelmingly endorsed a motion committing the party to support and participate fully in government in May of this year. This is a binding resolution.

"In the past the Government has set arbitrary deadlines but now, as laid out in our resolution, we, as a party, have agreed the timing, the setting-up and working of the institutions. Today, we have agreed with Sinn Fein that this date will be Tuesday, 8 May 2007.

"As the largest party in Northern Ireland, we are committed to playing a full part in all the institutions and delivering the best future for the people of Northern Ireland.

"In the period before devolution we will participate fully with the other parties to the executive in making full preparations for the restoration of devolution on 8 May.

"This meeting represents an important step on the road to the setting-up of an executive in six weeks' time. It has been a constructive engagement and we have agreed that in the weeks between now and the restoration of devolution on 8 May there is important preparatory work to be carried out so that local ministers can hit the ground running.

"This will include regular meetings between the future first and deputy first minister.

"The work must begin as quickly as possible and we have been considering a work programme to bring us to the agreed date for devolution which we are now asking the Government to legislate for.

"There is still vital work to be done to ensure the most favourable financial package possible is in place to allow devolution to succeed and prosper. To this end we have agreed with Sinn Fein to seek an early meeting with the Chancellor.

"In the next few days detailed work will begin, involving all of the executive parties, to allow a programme for government to be finalised for the start of devolution. This will require regular meetings in the next few weeks.

"The two parties have already asked the Prime Minister to ensure that no water charge bills should be issued and the matter should be left for a local executive to determine. We hope, trust and believe that the Secretary of State will listen to the voice of the people of Northern Ireland.

"After a long and difficult time in the province, I believe that enormous opportunities lie ahead for Northern Ireland.

"Devolution has never been an end in itself but is about making a positive difference to people's lives. I want to make it clear that I am committed to delivering not only for those who voted for the DUP but for all the people of Northern Ireland.

"We must not allow our justified loathing of the horrors and tragedies of the past to become a barrier to creating a better and more stable future.

"In looking to that future, we must never forget those who have suffered during the dark period from which we are, please God, emerging. We owe it to them to craft and build the best future possible and ensure there is genuine support for those who are still suffering.

"With hard work and a commitment to succeed, I believe we can lay the foundation for a better, peaceful and prosperous future for all our people

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