14/11/2005

Political parties in talks at Hillsborough

The Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Peter Hain, and the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, have invited a number of political parties to take part in meetings in Hillsborough today.

On the agenda of the low-key meetings are policing, parades and restorative justice.

Mr Hain referred to the meetings as a "stock-tacking" exercise.

However, while the DUP has declined to take part in the talks, it is understood that party representatives will travel to Dublin to take part in meetings later this month.

Nigel Dodds said his party would not be taking part in the talks as his party's position on the issues to be discussed were well known. He called the meetings a "stunt" designed to give the impression that something was happening.

The meetings follow the publication of the Northern Ireland Offences Bill last week that set out proposals on how terrorist suspects on the run will be treated.

Sinn Fein, the PUP and UKUP are expected to attend today's talks and further talks between the Ulster Unionists, the SDLP and Alliance are set for November 24.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey attacked the DUP for not attending the meetings. He accused the DUP of "play-acting" and said that they should be representing the pro-union side at the talks.

Mr Hain is scheduled to visit the US for meetings with senior US politicians.

The power-sharing Assembly has been suspended since 2002.

(SP/GB)

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