19/06/2001

REID HOLDS POLITICAL TALKS IN BELFAST

NORTHERN Ireland Secretary of State Dr John Reid has held talks with the province’s smaller pro-agreement political parties.

He met the Alliance Party, the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) and the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition (NIWC).

These talks follow discussions in London between the larger pro-Agreement parties the Ulster Unionist Party, the SDLP and Sinn Féin on Monday. Emerging from this meeting the larger parties gave a downbeat assessment of the situation following their meeting with Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern and no movement was achieved on the policing and decommissioning issues that continue to plague the power-sharing executive. Pressure on the executive to resolve the issue of decommissioning specifically has accelerated following First Minister David Trimble’s threat to resign on July 1 if there isn’t any sign of the IRA giving up their weapons.

Speaking after the meeting, Stephen Farry from the Alliance Party said that their meeting was far from upbeat. He said: “Although we appear to be in a stalemate situation, none of these issues are intractable. There is no reason to say that that these issues cannot be sorted out before the end of the month. At the moment, we are starring down the barrel of a gun at suspension [of the institutions created by the Good Friday Agreement]. It is very clear that the parties concerned have to make an effort to resolve these burning issues on policing and decommissioning.”

The PUP’s David Ervine after his meeting with the Secretary of State said that he thought David Trimble’s resignation would go ahead although he said he hoped he was wrong: “ If something happens before July 1st that would be great but I really don’t think we’re going to see anything happen before July 1st and I think we have to factor in that we are going to have to deal with resignation of the First Minister.”

On Tuesday, Dr Reid refused to be drawn on whether the assembly would be suspended before Mr Trimble’s deadline if there was no movement on the weapons issue. (AMcE)

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