After the second day of Northern Ireland devolution talks, an agreement still seems far off while the deadline is fast approaching. Expressing his frustration, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has turned up the pressure on the negotiators.
Alongside his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern, Blair said if a deal cannot be reached he will put one on the table and then the two parties will have to decide.
The pro-British Unionists and pro-Irish Republicans are said to be reluctant to move on two key issues: the province’s police force and the make-up of the power sharing government. Pro-British hardliner Ian Paisely of the Democratic Unionists wants catholic Sinn Fein to accept the police force.
But the party, the political ally of the IRA, has said it can not move on policing until provincial institutions are restored and power sharing begins. Gerry Adams has said he wants to hear Paisley say he is ready to go into government with Sinn Fein – an insistence some politicians feel could scupper the deal. The Stormont Assembly was set up under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Billed as last chance talks, if no deal is reached by November 24, London and Dublin will assume all power from Northern Ireland.