07/12/2004

Talks continue as deadline closes in on DUP and SF

Talks are continuing today to restore Northern Ireland devolution ahead of this week's deadline, set by the British and Irish Governments.

It is understood Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Premier Bertie Ahern are to publish their proposals on Wednesday, whether a deal is agreed or not, with pressure growing on both the DUP and Sinn Fein to agree on specific points of the documentation.

DUP North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said the “ball now rests very firmly in the IRA’s court” and called on the paramilitary group to engage with the IICD on the “absolutely fundamental issue of decommissioning”.

“It is high time the IRA stopped hiding and sat down with General De Chastelain to agree the details of decommissioning,” Mr Dodds said on Monday. “Until they do that and we see the colour of their money the DUP will not be taking any risks with the future of the people of this country.”

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said "the question which must be asked of and answered by Ian Paisley is - is he prepared to sign up to a comprehensive agreement which will have his party share power with Sinn Féin? Is it yes or is it no".

“In the next 48 hours we have the opportunity to make a quantum leap forward in the process. Is all of this going to be thrown away because Ian Paisley does not get the process of humiliation he wants?," he added.

Meanwhile, as moves to restore devolution come to a head both parties are to give a briefing on current political developments to members of the Northern Ireland Government Affairs on Tuesday night at Queen's University.

Arlene Foster and Alex Maskey will address the meeting which will be attended by key representatives from the voluntary, community, trade union and private sectors who are members of Northern Ireland Government Affairs Group (NIGAG).

Speaking in advance of the meeting, NIGAG Chairman Glyn Roberts said: "Our membership has a keen interest in seeing political agreement and the restoration of devolution, given their negative experience of the past two years of direct rule.

"This may be the last time for a deal to be made and it would be a tragedy if the progress that has been made over the last few months was lost.

"We urge all sides to go the extra mile and get a deal and restore our Assembly."

The NIGAG is the representative group for all those involved in political lobbying in Northern Ireland.

(MB)

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