31/01/2005

Prime Minister and Taoiseach meet to discuss way ahead

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will meet in London on Tuesday to discuss the way ahead in the Northern Ireland peace process.

The meeting follows separate discussions by both premiers with Sinn Fein and other political parties last week.

Secretary of State Paul Murphy and Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern will also be present to hear first hand from PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde and Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy on progress into the investigation of the recent Northern Bank robbery which led to the current political crisis.

Mr Murphy said: "We will discuss the way forward. Obviously it is not easy but in my meetings with political parties last week various ideas were put forward to deal with the democratic deficit that exists.

“However we have to be realists and you cannot form a devolved government or an Executive unless people agree to form them with each other and at the moment that is impossible."

Meanwhile, Mr Ahern is to meet the Independent Monitoring Commission on Monday ahead of a report into the £26 million robbery.

The commission, which monitors paramilitary activity, is widely expected to endorse the police assessment that the IRA carried out the raid.

Mr Murphy today indicated that he believed that the IMC would bring their next report forward. “I don't know when exactly the IMC will next report but it will certainly be earlier than April when they were next due to report,” he said.

(MB/SP)

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