28/04/2003

Meetings continue in effort to patch up peace process

Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Paul Murphy, is to meet with the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowan, in Belfast today in yet further efforts to patch up the Northern Ireland peace process.

The British government in particular is under pressure to reveal whether or not elections scheduled for May 29 will go ahead.

Last night at midnight the Northern Ireland Assembly was officially dissolved to make way for the elections.

However, it appears that Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has satisfactorily answered two of the three key questions posed to the IRA by British prime minister Tony Blair last week. Though goverment officials have said that more needs to be heard about the willingness of the IRA to cease paramilitary activities, an official spokesperson for Mr Blair described the statement as a “significant advance”.

On Sunday Mr Adams sought to further reassure the governments that the IRA statement was one of “peaceful intent”.

However, Ulster Unionists remain highly sceptical branding the IRA statement as one that “fell short” of what was required. Lagan Valley UUP MP Jeffery Donaldson declared that the IRA was effectively holding the two governments “hostage”.

Later today at Downing Street, Mr Blair is expected to give a briefing about how the government intends to carry the process forward.

(SP)

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