Bookmark and Share
06/02/2006

Devolution talks start in Hillsborough

Secretary of State, Peter Hain and Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern are today hosting talks at Hillsborough Castle, involving members of the main political parties in Northern Ireland.

Expectations on the likelihood of any progress being made on restoring devolution in Northern Ireland were dented following the release of last week's Independent Monitoring Commission report.

The Democratic Unionist Party were the first to speak with Mr Hain, however representatives refused to meet with Mr Ahern, saying that they would not discuss the internal affairs of Northern Ireland with a Dublin Minister.

Emerging from the meeting, the Rev Ian Paisley said there was a "great gulf" and "no agreement" at the meeting. He said the southern Government were "backing the IRA to get them back in government" but he said the IRA must disband.

Today's talks are set to be the beginning of a concerted bid by the British and Irish governments to bridge the gap between the main parties.

Mr Hain today said that all parties need to be involved in these discussions and that there is no reason for any political party not to be involved in negotiations about the future of Northern Ireland.

Last week's IMC report revealed that the IRA is still believed to be involved in intelligence-gathering and criminal activity, and is thought to be in possession of some weaponry.

This led to the Rev Ian Paisley, at the annual DUP party conference on Saturday, to refer to the IRA's decommissioning claims as "a blatant lie".

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness hit back, saying that Sinn Fein have taken risks for peace and made difficult decisions to ensure that the peace process remains in motion.

He said: "There are those whose objective is to wreck the peace, the peace breakers. They are to be found in the unionist political parties who hanker after the old days of unionist domination. They are in the Special Branch and British security system.

They are the people who provide the unsubstantiated allegations, including

DUP supporters in the Special Branch, that makes up the nonsense, which is presented as an IMC report."

Mr McGuinness added that the two governments needed to deal with the absurdity of this situation, and that it was clear that their combined goal was to see the political institutions restored to full working order.

He said that the next few months will be the "most challenging and crucial" since the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

He concluded by saying that these talks will provide the opportunity to resolve these issues and hard choices would soon have to be made by the DUP.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Lembit Opik, today commented on the start of the fresh talks. He said: "I hope that the government will have learnt the lesson of the last few years and will guarantee that this round of talks is truly inclusive.

"Northern Ireland cannot afford to be presented with another series of side-deals that will ultimately fail."

He added that all parties must return to round table talks and only when all parties agree to a way forward and sign up to the resulting package, will a lasting settlement be secured.

(EF/SP)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

26 September 2016
Man Charged Over £1.2m Drugs Seizure
A 28-year-old man is to appear in court today, 26 September, after police seized drugs worth £1.2million in Belfast. A large quantity of cocaine, heroin and herbal cannabis were discovered after police stopped a car on the West Bank Road on Friday, 23 September.
03 October 2016
Rangers Supporter From NI Killed In Bus Crash In Scotland
A Rangers supporter originally from Northern Ireland died after the bus he was travelling in was involved in a collision in Scotland. Ryan Baird, aged 39, was killed after the supporters' bus crashed on the A76 at the Crossroads roundabout in East Ayrshire at around 1.15pm on Saturday, 01 October.
19 June 2017
Other News In Brief
Woman Convicted Of Benefit Fraud A woman has been convicted for claiming benefits she was not entitled to at Newtownards Magistrates' Court. Caroline Bentley claimed Jobseeker's Allowance totalling £3,749 while failing to declare employment. She was given a two year conditional discharge.
11 July 2001
STILL NO BREAKTHROUGH IN WESTON PARK TALKS
HOPES that a breakthrough in talks could be brokered were dampened on Wednesday with Northern Ireland’s political leaders offering grim summaries of the proceedings at Weston Park in Staffordshire.
14 November 2005
Political parties in talks at Hillsborough
The Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Peter Hain, and the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, have invited a number of political parties to take part in meetings in Hillsborough today. On the agenda of the low-key meetings are policing, parades and restorative justice. Mr Hain referred to the meetings as a "stock-tacking" exercise.
22 September 2003
Murphy holds talks with political parties
Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Paul Murphy has held a series of political meetings with a number of political parties to discuss the ongoing peace process. Representatives from Sinn Fein, SDLP and UKUP met Mr Murphy at Hillsborough as efforts continue to re-establish devolved government in Northern Ireland.
07 June 2017
Superman Prequel To Be Shot At Belfast Harbour Studios
Superman prequel 'Krypton' is the first major production to be shot at the new £20million Belfast Harbour Studios, it has been confirmed. A one-hour series from Phantom Four, in association with Warner Horizon Scripted Television for the SYFY channel, will commence pre-production in Belfast this month with a shoot date of late summer.
02 November 2016
Brexit: Taoiseach Hosting All-Ireland Talks
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is hosting an 'All Island Civic Dialogue' conference on Brexit in Dublin. Approximately 300 politicians are attending the conference at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham. Speak ahead of the event, Sinn Fein President said Brexit is bad for jobs, trade, investment and services across Ireland.
25 August 2004
Parties want process to succeed, says Murphy
Northern Ireland's political parties know what has to be done to end direct rule and restore the devolved institutions, Secretary of State Paul Murphy has said today.
21 September 2015
Parties Urged To 'Not Let Opportunity Slip Away'
Northern Ireland's five main political parties have been urged to engage in new talks, aimed at breaking the deadlock. Speaking ahead of talks, due to start today, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, said: "These talks are crucial for Northern Ireland.
04 January 2006
Taoiseach to take part in Northern Ireland talks
The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has today announced that he is to hold talks with the country's Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern on the future of the Northern Ireland political process. The Irish Foreign Minister said there would be "a lot of activity" in relation to the political process in the near future. "We have to prepare the ground.
25 November 2005
Local parties angered by Government 'talks'
Following a meeting yesterday between some of the NI political parties and the NI Secretary of State Peter Hain and the Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, the political parties have expressed "anger" at a lack of information.
15 September 2004
Unionist parties engage in pre-talks 'concessions' spat
The two main unionist parties have become embroiled in a 'concessions' spat ahead of tomorrow's negotiations at Leeds Castle.
28 October 2003
Excluded parties bid for 'transparency' should talks on arms resume
Following the release of a Downing Street statement today on the failure to broker an arms decommissioning deal between the Ulster Unionist Party and Sinn Fein, an Alliance party candidate has launched a scathing attack on the government's stance on the issue.
03 February 2003
Murphy urges 'participation' in devolution talks
Secretary of State Paul Murphy has called for "participation" at the talk's table from all political parties after meeting today with the US President's special advisor on Northern Ireland, Richard Haass.