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Statement by Mark Durkan following the Talks at St Andrews, Scotland, (16 February 2006)

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Text: Mark Durkan ... Page compiled: Martin Melaugh

Statement by Mark Durkan, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), made at the House of Commons, Westminster, following the Talks at St Andrews, Scotland, (16 October 2006)


"Those of us who have always believed in power-sharing and North South institutions and those of us who have always believed in a new beginning to police are vindicated by the events of last week. Because now we see the DUP move to the threshold of accepting inclusive power-sharing and Sinn Fein move to the threshold of accepting policing. Both parties, it seems, are at last honouring those key commitments of the Good Friday Agreement.

So we are now on the right side of the mountain. And yes, there are some ways to go and we need to make sure that we optimize the opportunities and minimise the problems. And yes there are still some problems to be overcome.

On MI5, the SDLP still has concerns. Is it not unacceptable that Osama Bin Laden brings a complaint about being got at by MI5, but the Omagh families bring a complaint about being let down by MI5? That is an injustice that has to be addressed.

The SDLP also has concerns about the draft legislation produced by the Government. We believe that it would invite bad politics and bad government and carries the real danger of gridlock in government. This is something that we can and must sort out at the Preparation for Government Committee.

If we work through those problems in the same spirit that we showed during the summer, we can soon move to a situation where politics is not about counting the casualties of the past to one that is about setting the priorities of a shared future.

We can move from the politics of stand off to the politics of lift off. Setting out not just to achieve restoration, but reconciliation.

A chance to get all the Northís politicians working together for the first time ever.

A chance to work constructively with the South to break down all the barriers that have impeded our islandís economy and held back our society.

A chance to send a clear message to the world: that we in the North are not just settling for the absence of violence. That we are serious about building a sustainable positive peace.

That is the rich reward that will be there for all our people."


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