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March 24, 2007

DUP Meeting Breaks Up

News about Ireland & the Irish

BN 03/24/07 DUP Meeting Breaks Up
RT 03/24/07 Indications Of Possible Developments In NI
BB 03/24/07 Delay To Devolution 'Considered'
SF 03/24/07 Adams - Focus On Restoration Of Power-Sharing
BB 03/24/07 DUP Embarks On Crucial Meeting Over Power-Sharing
BT 03/24/07 World Is Interested
BT 03/24/07 Odds Are Improving For Monday Deal, But ...
IT 03/24/07 Prosperity 'Depends On Peace In NI'
BT 03/24/07 Issues Of Our Past Must Be Dealt With
BT 03/24/07 It's Time To Make Peace With Our Neighbours
BN 03/24/07 Petrol Bombers Attack Police Base
SF 03/24/07 Sinn Féin MP Condemns Petrol Bomb Incident
BB 03/24/07 Orangemen Mark Union Anniversary
SF 03/24/07 US War Machine Out Of Shannon - Ó Broin
BT 03/24/07 Opin: Chancellor Must Be Pushed Further


DUP Meeting Breaks Up

24/03/2007 - 15:00:28

The Democratic Unionist Party's crucial meeting on power sharing
today broke up after five-and-a-half hours, with negotiations
with the British government continuing.

A party spokesperson described the meeting as constructive and

However he stopped short of making any statement on the outcome
of the meeting.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have
asked the DUP to give a clear signal over whether it will
nominate devolved ministers at a meeting of the Assembly on

Earlier Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey claimed that he had
learned that Mr Blair was planning emergency legislation to
suspend devolution for eight weeks following the appointment of
devolved ministers.


Indications Of Possible Developments In NI

Saturday, 24 March 2007 14:28

There are indications of possible political developments in
Northern Ireland.

The DUP has been meeting to review its position ahead of next
Monday's devolution deadline at Stormont.

And it is understood the Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams, is on
his way to Hillsborough Castle for talks with the Northern
Secretary, Peter Hain.

Earlier, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot
Ahern, said he does not know at this stage whether we will have
devolution on Monday, because he said no one does.

He said the DUP must agree to nominate ministers to a devolved
executive on Monday and if that does not happen the two
governments were ready to move to the so called 'Plan B'.

He said this would see Dublin and London taking a more active
role in running Northern Ireland.

Mr Ahern said that the details of what constitutes Plan B had
been kept to a very tight circle in the British and Irish

He said it would represent a step change for the administration
of Northern Ireland.

Mr Ahern was speaking at the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis.

The 120-member DUP executive is meeting near Belfast to discuss
the party's position about power-sharing.

It is still not clear if the party will commit itself to power-
sharing when the parties meet at Stormont on Monday.

After talks with the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in
London last night, the DUP leader, Dr Ian Paisley, said contacts
would continue over the weekend.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has been in contact with Mr Blair
this morning to discuss Monday's meeting of the Assembly.

Mr Adams has briefed the party's Ard Chomhairle on ongoing
developments and has returned to Belfast to meet with the Sinn
Féin negotiating team.

Mr Adams said: 'Sinn Féin has remained in contact with Downing
Street over the last 24 hours and earlier this morning I spoke
directly with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

'There have been concerns in recent days as we approach Monday's
deadline that some within the DUP and the British system have
become unsettled.'


Delay To Devolution 'Considered'

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey has said he thinks the
government may be intending to legislate for a delay to the
return of full devolution.

It comes as the DUP's ruling executive meets to decide if it will
nominate ministers to a power-sharing executive at Stormont.

The British government is looking for an answer from the party
this weekend, before Monday's devolution deadline.

Sir Reg said he understood an eight week delay was under

"What is being proposed is that Tony Blair is being asked to
introduce a piece of legislation into the House of Commons on
Monday by suspending the budget debate," he told Radio Ulster's
Inside Politics programme.

"This legislation would have the effect of ultimately suspending
the assembly from one minute past midnight on Tuesday for eight

Secretary of State Peter Hain has consistently denied there will
be any emergency legislation to alter Monday's deadline.

The British and Irish governments have said Stormont will be
dissolved if the 26 March deadline is not met.

The 120-strong DUP executive meeting has been described by some
party figures as the most important in its history.

The politicians have gathered at Castlereagh Borough Council
offices, with discussions expected to last until early Saturday

Meanwhile, Gerry Adams is on his way back to Belfast from Dublin
to meet with his party's negotiating team.

The Sinn Féin president spoke to Prime Minister Tony Blair on the
phone and said he has concerns that some within the DUP and the
British government have "become unsettled", as Monday's deadline

"But the fact is that the people have spoken. They want to see
the power-sharing institutions restored," he said.

Mr Paisley held talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair twice within
48 hours this week, ahead of the deadline.

After the second meeting, Downing Street re-iterated that
Monday's deadline stood.

Mr Paisley said a "great deal of ground" had been covered.

However, he earlier said a financial package offered by
Chancellor Gordon Brown did not meet Northern Ireland's economic

Mr Brown has promised an extra œ1bn if devolution is back on

The cash is on top of œ35bn promised by the government over four

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended since October
2002, amid allegations of an IRA spy ring at Stormont.

A subsequent court case collapsed. Direct rule has been in place
since that date.

If devolution does not return, controversial water bills will be
posted to homes in Northern Ireland within days.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/24 14:35:50 GMT


Adams - Focus Must Be On Restoration Of Power-Sharing

Published: 24 March, 2007

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has been in contact with British
Prime Minister Tony Blair this morning to discuss Monday's
meeting of the Assembly. Mr. Adams has briefed the party's Ard
Chomhairle on ongoing developments and is now returning to
Belfast to meet with the Sinn Féin negotiating team.

Mr. Adams said:

"Sinn Féin has remained in contact with Downing Street over the
last 24 hours and earlier this morning I spoke directly with
British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"There have been concerns in recent days as we approach Monday's
deadline that some within the DUP and the British system have
become unsettled. But the fact is that the people have spoken.
They want to see the power-sharing institutions restored. And
this is what Sinn Féin has been working painstakingly to bring

"I have briefed the Ard Chomhairle on ongoing developments and
will now return to Belfast to meet with the Sinn Féin
negotiations team."ENDS


DUP Embarks On Crucial Meeting Over Power-Sharing

24/03/2007 - 12:43:59

Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists today embarked on a crucial
party meeting about their possible involvement in a new power-
sharing executive.

However as the 120 member party executive gathered at the
headquarters of Castlereagh Borough Council in Belfast, senior
party sources expressed doubts about whether the party would be
able to be in a position to nominate devolved ministers by next
Monday's power-sharing deadline.

Leading party figures said little as they arrived at the council
offices in fine spring sunshine for what was being billed as the
most important meeting the party has ever had.

Mr Paisley, wearing his trademark Homburg cap, smiled as he
arrived in his chauffeur driven car and greeted journalists with
the words: "Lovely morning."

His son Ian Junior arrived by motorbike.

Other senior figures who have become sceptical about the March 26
deadline such as East Derry MP Gregory Campbell and MEP Jim
Allister, said nothing as they arrived early.

DUP sources, however, suggested that today's meeting could be
broken up into two parts, with a senior delegation having to
leave for a period of time for negotiations with the British

The DUP is under pressure to confirm that it will nominate Mr
Paisley as Northern Ireland First Minister by Monday's power
sharing deadline as well as four devolved ministers.

Northern Secretary Peter Hain has warned that if next Monday's
deadline is not met, the Assembly will be closed down, the 108
MLAs elected earlier this month will receive no salary and
controversial water charges will be introduced in the North on
April 1.

A party source said: "There is still intense negotiations taking
place with the British government and at this stage it is looking
unlikely that we will be able to run d'hondt (the system
nominating devolved ministers) in the Assembly on Monday.

"There is a lot of hard talking but the question is whether
people in government really want to throw the baby out with the
bath water on Monday."

Sinn Féin's national executive was also meeting in Dublin today
as the DUP continued to negotiate.


World Is Interested

[Published: Saturday 24, March 2007 - 09:01]
By Noel McAdam

The eyes of the world will be back on Belfast come Monday.

The potential restoration of devolved government in Ulster has
excited more international media interest than the recent
elections or the St Andrews talks.

Dozens of television crews from Europe, America and even Japan
have sent formal requests to broadcast from Stormont.

And the European stations even include a team from the Basque
region, say Assembly officials.

But the international television squads will not be given direct
access to the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings.

Instead, the foreign journalists will be allowed to use only the
basement facilities or go into the Press gallery above and just
behind the Speakers' chair.

For the international media, special screens and a marquee will
be installed just outside Stormont, where the doors remain firmly
closed this weekend.

The demands of a media scrum has created a security headache for
Assembly officials.

Around 300 Assembly staff working in offices around the building
are also being asked to stay away from the Great Hall.

If nominations of ministers is to go ahead the Assembly sitting
begins on Monday at noon, with prayers.

c Belfast Telegraph


Odds Are Improving For Monday Deal, But ...

[Published: Saturday 24, March 2007 - 09:02]
By Chris Thornton

A leading bookmaker shortened the odds last night towards a
Stormont deal being reached - but still reckoned politicians
won't make Monday's deadline.

As the DUP prepared for a meeting today to assess if conditions
are right for entering government with Sinn Féin, Paddy Power put
the odds of a settlement on Monday at 8/11 - meaning punters
think the safer bet is that the deadline will be broken.

Meanwhile, messages of good wishes and threats of dire
consequences were piling up.

Government sources said water bills were in sealed envelopes
ready to be posted on Tuesday if final efforts for a deal

More than 100 members of the DUP's party executive are due to
meet in Castlereagh this morning to hash over the recent talks.

The party has been sending mixed signals about whether Chancellor
Gordon Brown's proposed economic package and progress on policing
are enough for them to enter the Executive.

DUP leader Ian Paisley was still in last-minute talks in London
with Prime Minister Tony Blair late yesterday.

Government sources were trying to pile pressure on the DUP -
repeating warnings that failure to form a power-sharing
administration would cut off Assembly members' pay.

"The parties should be under no illusion," a source claimed. "
The water bills are being enveloped today and they will be posted
on Tuesday.

"If they want to stop the charges, if they want to avail of the
œ70m the Treasury is offering ... they will have to form an
Executive on Monday.

"If they refuse to appoint ministers, the Assembly will close
down and MLAs will not receive any salaries or allowances."

Secretary of State Peter Hain set a deadline of midnight tomorrow
for the DUP to confirm they will nominate Mr Paisley as First
Minister. DUP sources insisted there were still a number of
issues to be resolved.

The DUP has pressed for greater clarity from Sinn Féin about its
attitude to the police and for Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon
Brown to produce more funds for the devolved Executive.

The DUP leader insisted the Chancellor's package of œ51bn over 10
years was stingy. He accused Mr Brown of a sleight of hand over
claims he found an extra œ1bn, noting œ400m of it was actually
Irish government money.

"We need more than Republic of Ireland euro, we need the British
Exchequer to start making sacrifices for the people of Northern

c Belfast Telegraph


Prosperity 'Depends On Peace In NI'

Sat, Mar 24, 2007

Ireland's prosperity is dependant upon peace in the North,
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern told the Fianna F il
Ardfheis in Dublin today.

"On this day thirty five years ago, the British Government
announced the imposition of Direct Rule on the North. I believe
it's time to take power back," he told delegates in the Citywest
Hotel, Saggart.

"Back into the hands of local politicians: nationalists and

Mr Ahern said Fianna F il would "never turn away" from the North
because "Ireland without peace can never know prosperity. Because
peace is the prerequisite for every element of our nation's

"If we are serious about defending prosperity we must be equally
serious about securing the peace."

He praised Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's role int he peace process.
"No-one has done more. And no-one is needed more in these crucial
hours and days of decision," the Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Ahern said Ireland now had resources to assist some of the
world's poorest nations. He said Ireland is now positionioned on
the world stage as:

:: A bridge between the developed and developing world

:: A global leader in the fight against HIV, poverty and

:: An intermediary and facilitator in Peace Processes

:: The first on the ground in a humanitarian crisis

:: The model UN State for the 21st Century

c 2007


Issues Of Our Past Must Be Dealt With

[Published: Saturday 24, March 2007 - 09:06]

I asked the source how he now assessed the IRA war threat, and he
responded immediately. "It's totally gone," he replied. "There's
not even an 'if' or a 'but' about that. It's totally gone."

The source is not a republican. He is someone who fought the war
from the loyalist side of the lines, and who was involved from
the beginning to the end.

"If I was a republican, I would be a disaffected republican," he
told me.

He was using those words to emphasise the difference between the
IRA of war and the IRA of the peace process - to explain in his
thinking the republican journey. "In terms of their ideology,
they have turned it on its head," the senior loyalist said.

"Many people would see Adams as the guru who brought that about.
Obviously, the outcome suits me, and it suits Northern Ireland."

There is much to be read between these lines - much for Ian
Paisley and the DUP to think about at this important moment of
political decision for them.

The source I have spoken to knows the loyalist men of war, and is
someone who was part of the decision-making around the Combined
Loyalist Military Command truce of 1991 and the ceasefire of

He still holds a senior position in the loyalist paramilitary

What you hear in his words is an opinion that the IRA war is
over, and, equally significantly, you don't hear anything that
threatens the new political beginning - the era of Paisley and

That silence is important to the making of a new mood.

And there is something else for the DUP to consider - the
settling of the political question now will bring forward from
the loyalist paramilitary community a contribution that will add
to the peace.

After the election, Ian Paisley must know that there is no
significant opposition in the unionist-loyalist community to a
new Executive in which the DUP and Sinn Féin will be the major

And the demand of a few within his party for further delays is
not a good enough reason for not taking the next step now.

If it is taken, others will follow.

At the most senior levels of the police, you will be told that
the new Sinn Féin position on policing has made a difference -
that the change on the republican ground is "palpable" in terms
of that community's response to the PSNI.

And we know that the working out of the politics will take
republicans another step inside policing - on to the
PolicingBoard and the District Policing Partnerships.

None of this should be dismissed. It is the turning upside down
of republican ideology that the senior loyalist identified.

And it is part of the something new that has created the
circumstances in which Ian Paisley is closer than ever to saying
Yes - to doing the once unthinkable.

Republicans know the change - know what is different. It is they
who have changed themselves - their approach, their way of doing
and not doing things.

"What immediately comes to mind is the whole sort of shift away
from armed, militant republicanism to a movement now dedicated to
achieve the reunification of the country by exclusively peaceful
means," a source told this newspaper.

"That's the core shift. It's the same movement, but it is a
fundamental shift and it has taken the best part of a decade for
that shift to establish itself irreversibly," he said.

It is the same movement doing things differently.

The IRA continues to melt away, and there is a political momentum
leading to something new in our politics.

Away from that process, loyalists and republicans - at the most
senior level - need to begin to speak to each other; need to deal
with the unfinished business of conflict.

That's why I believe a peace conference or forum of some
description is needed - something that deals with the issues of
the past: marching, the future of the republican and loyalist
organisations, and how you achieve a community at peace with

We are at a big moment of decision. There should only be one

c Belfast Telegraph


It's Time To Make Peace With Our Neighbours

[Published: Saturday 24, March 2007 - 11:41]
By Alf McCreary

The Presbyterian Church this week launched a major peace-building
initiative to encourage members to be better neighbours in their

Apart from the church itself, the œ250,000 initiative is being
sponsored by, among others, the International Fund for Ireland
and the five-week Gospel in Conflict course is aimed at
individual congregations.

This is admirable, but people might be forgiven for wondering why
the Presbyterian Church has taken so long to produce such an

The Moderator, Dr David Clarke, rightly said that the churches in
general had been a force for stability and tolerance but
"regrettably ? we have not been as proactive as we might have
been in the task of peacemaking."

The Assembly Clerk, the Rev Dr Donald Watts, said of the
initiative: " It may have been a long time in coming, but it is
here." Boy, is he right.

Dr Watts said that every Presbyterian should be "excited" by the
new development. An "excited Presbyterian" is often a
contradiction in terms, but the initiative should be welcomed
because it is aimed at the grass-roots.

There is no better convenor of the Peacemaking Panel than the Rev
Liz Hughes, the dynamic minister of Whitehouse Presbyterian
Church, which was destroyed by arsonists in 2002.

The church was rebuilt with style, and Whitehouse has carried on
its enlightened tradition - established even before the fire - of
reaching out to people in both communities in north Belfast.

It is noticeable, however, that the latest Presbyterian
initiative studiously avoids using the term 'ecumenism,' an
honoured term in world-wide Christendom, but which to many
members in Northern Ireland is the kiss of death. For a long
time, the Presbyterian Church has cleverly patched over its deep
internal differences by electing a 'liberal' and a 'conservative'
Moderator year about.

Sometimes, this ecclesiastical fudge comes spectacularly unstuck
as when a former Moderator outraged a large number of
Presbyterians (and many outsiders including the editor of the
Church of Ireland Gazette) by declining to attend an RUC memorial
service because there would be 'shared worship' with Catholic

At such a time, the general public looks down its collective nose
and observes with justification ... "How those Christians love
one another" .

As a result, the Presbyterian initiative on bridge-building will
be taken even more seriously by the outside world when the
General Assembly officially invites senior Catholic clergy to its
Opening Night, and routinely to all cross-community initiatives
in every part of this island.

The Church of Ireland and the Methodists have no such problems.
Last year, the Catholic Primate, Archbishop Sean Brady, attended
the General Synod in Armagh, and previously the Catholic
Archbishop of Dublin was present at the Methodists' annual
general meeting in the Republic. On the ground, however, all the
churches still face the challenge of translating symbolic
gestures and fine words into a practical reality.

The Presbyterians, therefore, should be encouraged in their
latest initiative, especially as the struggling peace process
tries to gain momentum. The people have shown, yet again, that
they are ahead of the foot-dragging politicians. Next week,
however, will tell its own tale about power-sharing in the

Meanwhile, the Rev Hughes noted that while many people believe
that peace has arrived, much still needs to be done, and Dr Watts
also observed that " at a time when relationships in this island
are being talked about in new, vital ways ... the Church can be
part of that conversation." Precisely - now let's all get on with

c Belfast Telegraph


Petrol Bombers Attack Police Base

Police have escaped injury after petrol bombs were thrown into
Crossmaglen PSNI station in south Armagh.

It is believed that about 20 of the devices were thrown during
the attack, which happened at about 0030 GMT on Saturday.

A small fire was started in the grounds of the station, but it
was quickly put out and caused little damage.

Earlier, police officers on patrol in the village reported
hearing automatic gunfire.

It is believed the shots were fired somewhere to the north of the

The attack on the police station was condemned by Sinn Féin MP
Conor Murphy.

"I would appeal to those involved in this type of pointless
activity to wise up and to reflect upon the damage that this type
of activity does to the reputation of the local community here in
Crossmaglen," he said.

Police have appealed for anyone with information to contact them.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/24 09:31:10 GMT


Sinn Féin MP Condemns Petrol Bomb Incident

Published: 24 March, 2007

Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy has condemned
those involved in throwing petrol bombs at the heavily fortified
PSNI base in Crossmaglen last night saying that they had nothing
to offer the local community.

Mr Murphy said:

"It is difficult to work out exactly what motivated those who
threw a number of petrol bombs at the heavily fortified barracks
in Crossmaglen overnight. Some local people have reported that
those involved were drunk. What I can clearly say is that it was
in no way connected to Republicans.

"I would appeal to those involved in this type of pointless
activity to wise up and to reflect upon the damage that this type
of activity does to the reputation of the local community here in
Crossmaglen." ENDS


US War Machine Out Of Shannon - O Broin

Published: 24 March, 2007

Speaking today at the Irish Anti War Movements anti war
demonstration at the Fianna F il Ard Fheis in West Dublin, Sinn
Féin candidate for D£n Laoghaire Eoin O Broin has said, "Lets
make this war an election issue. The Fianna F il/PD government
must end its collusion with US & British military aggression. It
must end the use of Irish airports and airspace by the US
military and CIA, and it must join the Irish people in doing
everything in its power to bring this war to an end".

Full text of Mr O Broin's speech:

"Since the US/British led invasion of Iraq, between 59,000 &
65,000 people have been killed.

The last 12 months has been by far the worst year for violence
against civilians

Almost half of all violent civilian deaths after the initial
invasion phase occurred in the fourth year of the conflict

Mortar attacks that kill civilians have quadrupled in the last

Massive bomb blasts that kill more than 50 people have nearly
doubled in the last year.

Fatal suicide bombs, car bombs, and roadside bombing attacks have
doubled in the last year.

One in 160 of Baghdad's 6.5 million population has been violently
killed since the beginning of the war, representing 64% of deaths
recorded so far.

More than 60,000 dead. Hundreds of thousands injured. Millions of
lives affected. And still these figures can not describe the
instability and insecurity that constitutes the daily life of
ordinary people in Iraq every single day.

This chaos is the direct consequence of the decisions, taken four
years ago, in Washington and London, to invade Iraq, and commence
a war without legal, political or ethical foundation.

Many of us who were campaigning at that time said that such a war
would lead to massive loss of human life, prolonged political
instability, and a regional crisis of untold proportions.

Today, looking at the US/British inspired chaos in Iraq, we
should take no comfort in saying that we were right.

The war was founded on a lie. It is being prosecuted to serve the
selfish strategic and economic interests of political elites in
Washington and London, and their allies in Iraq.

The only solution, is to end the occupation NOW, and allow the
Iraqi people to determine their our course of action in
rebuilding their country.

Despite the governments official policy of neutrality, and the
Irish peoples opposition to this war, Fianna F il and the PDs are
complicit in this horrific picture.

More than 500,000 US troops have passed through Shannon Airport
since the beginning of 2003, an act in flagrant violation of
Irish neutrality. This government is in serious violation of
International law and its international human rights obligations.

The United States should be denied the use of any and all Irish
airports. US military and intelligence agencies have been using
Shannon airport as part of the infrastructure for their illegal
programme of extraordinary rendition. The blind eyes turned by
many European governments, including our own, has allowed the
United States to kidnap individuals and transport them to
locations where they may be subjected to torture, inhumane and
degrading treatment in direct contravention of the most basic
international human rights laws.

An unambiguous message must be sent to the United States
Administration and to the Fianna F il/PD government that their
activities are unacceptable, that the Irish people will not
tolerate them, and that in the upcoming election their will be a
price to pay for complicity in this illegal and appalling war.

Lets make this war an election issue. The Fianna F il/PD
government must end its collusion with US & British military
aggression. It must end the use of Irish airports and airspace by
the US military and CIA, and it must join the Irish people in
doing everything in its power to bring this war to an end."ENDS


Orangemen Mark Union Anniversary

Up to 10,000 Orangemen are due to take part in a parade to
celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Union between Scotland and

Orange Lodges from across the UK will march alongside 80 bands
through Edinburgh to mark the event.

They will commemorate the old Scottish Parliament voting itself
out of existence and politically coupling Scotland with England
in 1707.

They also warn the Union could be under threat in May's Holyrood

Ian Wilson, the Grand Master of the Orange Order in Scotland,
said he had seen many politicians use the Union as a campaign
tool this year but criticised them for doing little to mark its

It is ironic in this historic year where we celebrate the Act of
Union, we also face an election where that Union is under threat

Ian Wilson

Orange Order in Scotland

"I believe the unprecedented number of members taking part is an
indicator of how strongly our members feel about preserving the
Union," he said.

"I am sad that there was so little organised by anyone other than
ourselves to commemorate and celebrate this event and the
benefits it has brought us all as individual nations and to the
United Kingdom as a whole.

He will warn the marchers that the Scottish National Party's
plans for independence would be the "beginning of the end" for
the Union.

"It is ironic in this historic year where we celebrate the Act of
Union, we also face an election where that Union is under
threat," Mr Wilson said.

"In just over a month's time there is the real threat of a
Nationalist victory in the Scottish Parliamentary elections.

"We will be sending a clear message to the separatists that
whilst we may all want to see a stronger, better government in
Scotland, we won't tinker with the Union to achieve it."

A commemorative œ2 coin was launched in January to mark the
unification of England and Scotland into Great Britain.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/24 12:29:22 GMT


Viewpoint: Chancellor Must Be Pushed Further

[Published: Saturday 24, March 2007 - 09:12]

Devolution hangs in the balance this weekend as the final hands
of cards are dealt. By Monday Northern Ireland and the world
should be much clearer as to whether the hitherto unlikely
concept of a power-sharing executive involving the DUP and Sinn
Féin will be a reality.

Much hinges on the outcome of today's meeting of the DUP
executive but one scenario which is being given more credence is
for a bedding-in period of eight weeks to be allowed once
Ministers are nominated and an executive is formed. Although the
details are still sketchy, it might well prove to be an expedient

Ostensibly, such an interregnum would be designed to enable new
Ministers to become familiar with their briefs, but in reality it
would give the DUP and the other parties some breathing space.

The creation of an embryonic executive would mean Peter Hain's
deadline of March 26 had technically been met, but it would also
give the new Assembly more time both to assess how devolution is
going to work - and also to push for an improved economic

Although Gordon Brown has hailed his package as creating the
conditions for " an historic opportunity" his enthusiasm has not
been shared by the Northern Ireland business community. Already,
they have voiced doubts as to whether the package as presently
constituted will have the effect of putting the local economy on
the badly needed new trajectory.

Significantly, the political parties have been less caustic,
claiming that some progress has been made. The Treasury insists
that the œ1bn is all new money, and highlights the creation of a
œ500m innovation fund. But this does not have the impact of a
fiscal incentive, such as a cut in the headline rate of
corporation tax.

The Chancellor has effectively put the corporation tax issue on
the long finger by proposing to set up a review which would
report back in the autumn. Mr Brown is kicking for touch and no
doubt hoping that by the time the ball lands, his successor will
be under no pressure to do anything about this key structural

It is vital, though, that the political parties do not take their
eye off the ball at this critical juncture. They must use the
proposed settling-in period of eight weeks to go back to the
Chancellor and press him to go further.

The real danger, as CBI chairman Declan Billington points out, is
that a new executive will find itself saddled with excessive
levels of debt. As the parties come to the wire this weekend, and
the DUP decides whether to grasp the nettle of power-sharing,
they must make the economy one of their priorities. As Ian
Paisley says, even a beautiful engine needs fuel upon which to

c Belfast Telegraph

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