22/06/2001

REID MEETS PARTIES IN BID TO BREAK IMPASSE

IN a bid to break the current impasse in the peace process the leadership of Sinn Fein met the Northern Ireland Secretary of State and the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister in Hillsborough Castle.

Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness, Assembly Minister Bairbre de Brun, and Assembly Member Gerry Kelly met with Dr John Reid and Brian Cowan at Hillsborough Castle on Friday, June 22.

Following the meeting Martin McGuinness said: “It is time for the British government to get real and it is time for all our politicians who have dishonestly tried to state their position on the decommissioning section of the agreement to waken up and to recognise that there is a collective responsibility. I believe that the issue of getting armed groups to put weapons beyond use is one that can be resolved”.

However, earlier this week a senior IRA source indicated that decommissioning would not be commenced due to British pressure or to meet a unionist agenda.

In a surprise hour-long meeting with the Secretary of State Dr John Reid, SDLP Deputy Leader Seamus Mallon had detailed discussions on policing and said that he was looking forward to progress on this issue: “I hope that the British government will at last see sense on this issue and be able to do what they should have done from the beginning – that is to ensure that everything is done in accordance with the Patton recommendations.”

First Minister David Trimble again called for decommissioning following his meeting with the Ministers at Hillsborough castle.

Mr Trimble said that progress would still possible if republicans would only make a move on decommissioning: “There is a united front throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. All political parties and commentators are saying to the republicans: 'It is time for you to keep your promises'."

Mr McGuinness, however, hit out at both the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon for attempting to manipulate the decommissioning issue. He said that republicans were tired of the issue of “silent guns” being raised.

Meetings were also scheduled to take place with the other main pro-agreement parties at Hillsborough on Friday. (SP)

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