British Prime Minister Tony Blair has expressed qualified optimism that elections leading to the restoration of a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland will go ahead as planned. It follows Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein’s decision to back the British province’s police force.
“Let’s wait and see how this develops because for there to be elections, you need to know there is some chance to have a set of institutions that are actually going to be up and working,” Blair said at Downing Street. “But I think we are closer to that happening as a result of the decisions that have been taken by Sinn Fein and what we need to see is that, on the one side, there is the commitment to power sharing and on the other side there is the actual commitment translated into practice of support for the police.”
On the other side of the political divide from Sinn Fein, DUP leader Ian Paisley is also confident the elections will go ahead on March 7. The assembly, which London and Dublin hope will resume work later that month, folded four years ago after a spying scandal shattered an already fragile cross-party administration.