28/06/2001

PREMIERS PESSIMISTIC ABOUT WAY FORWARD

THE British Government does not think it can do enough to prevent David Trimble resigning as Northern Ireland’s First Minister.

The British Prime Minister Tony Blair flew into Hillsborough on Thursday to hold crisis talks with his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern.

In the face of David Trimble’s resignation, which looks likely to take effect this Sunday, Blair and Ahern have been anxious to break the deadlock which could see the end of the power sharing executive created by the three-year-old Good Friday Agreement.

The jointly hosted talks took place with the pro-Agreement parties in the form of round table and bilateral talks. The head of the decommissioning body, General John de Chastelain also meet the premiers.

The same hounding issues of decommissioning, demilitarisation and policing reform were top of the agenda for the politicians

David Trimble’s imminent and widely expected resignation will mean the Executive will continue under the hand of the Deputy First Minister, Séamus Mallon for six weeks.

Speaking on RTE on Thursday morning, the Secretary of State Dr John Reid said: “The peace process will not fall apart if David [Trimble] goes, I think it will be a blow, it is to be regretted but will still continue to talk.”

He also said that he believed the IRA would put weapons beyond use.

A new worrying development emerged during the week from the Democratic Unionist Party camp. Gregory Campbell stated that he would resign his position as Regional Development Minister, along with Maurice Morrow, who is Minister for Social Development in the Executive. He said that they would resign if David Trimble’s three ministerial colleagues, (Sir Reg Empey, Sam Foster and Michael McGimpsey) also resigned in the aftermath of their leader’s withdrawal.

It is understood that the Ulster Unionist Council has not made clear its position if Mr Trimble’s resignation takes effect.

Prior to the talks Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams accused the other parties of “ganging up on Sinn Fein.” He said that the neither the threat of resignation by David Trimble nor pressure from the Governments would not lead to decommissioning.

Both Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern were expected to return home after the Hillsborough Castle talks.

(AMcE)

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