20/01/2003

UUP slam Stormont talks as a 'smokescreen'

The UUP has refused to take part in implementation talks in Stormont today, saying that the discussions would act as a "smokescreen" for the more serious issue of paramilitarism, according to party leader David Trimble.

Mr Trimble, who is attending a conference in Barcelona, explained his party's decision in a letter sent to Secretary of State Paul Murphy today. Sir Reg Empey also said that as the talks were not inter-party roundtable discussions the UUP were not obliged to be present.

In his letter, the former first minister wrote: "For us the key issue was paramilitarism and the resultant lack of confidence for the continuance of the institutions.

"We were concerned that the inclusion of so many secondary issues, many no doubt appropriate for inclusion in a broad ranging review, would in the present situation merely serve as a smokescreen to divert attention from the cause of the present difficulties. We made it clear that we were opposed to such an agenda."

He added that the problem was further exacerbated by including work that was ongoing in the Northern Ireland Executive.

Mr Trimble commented: “These cannot properly be debated in this format without undermining Executive discussions and decisions. I regret consequently that we cannot participate this afternoon."

The talks, which are being co-chaired by NIO Minister Des Browne and Irish Minister Tom Kitts, dealt with issues relating to the implementation of the agreement. There are no official delegates from Unionist parties at the meetings.

Sinn Fein's former health minister Bairbre de Brun said that what the UUP had described as secondary issues, were core to the agreement.

She said: "I am shocked that anyone would say that the rights of victims or taking forward work on a bill of rights – even the question of symbols and emblems – are peripheral issues. I don’t see that, they are core and central to the Good Friday Agreement.

"We need to stick with it… to continue to go into the implementation groups and have dialogue, and to get the stable institutions up and running because that is what has brought more movement than anything that I have seen in all my years of political activity."

Elsewhere, a Sinn Fein delegation comprising party vice-president Pat Doherty, Dail TD Caoimhghin O Caolain, and Conor Murphy is expected to meet with the Secretary of State at Castle Buildings tomorrow morning.

Ahead of the meeting, Sinn Fein's assembly group leader Mr Murphy said: "We need clarification that the work of the North South Ministerial Council is taken forward and developed, we need to see the work in the designated areas of cooperation such as agriculture and transport progress and that the operation of the All Ireland Implementation Bodies will not be frustrated in any way."

(GMcG)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

07 November 2018
Sinn Fein Used Deputy First Minister's Office Despite Stormont Collapse
Sinn Fein continued to use the office of the deputy First Minister at Stormont despite the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive, it has emerged.
04 December 2007
Talks To Avert Christmas Strike At Aer Lingus Continue
Aer Lingus passengers, those hoping to fly to or from Dublin or from this month Belfast, could be in for a difficult Christmas. The latest round of fruitless negotiations in the Aer Lingus dispute took place yesterday, with talks running late into last night in an effort to avert the threat of industrial action in the run-up to Christmas.
30 April 2002
Nationalist party leaders discuss divisive issue of policing
The leaders of Northern Ireland’s two nationalist parties have held a breakfast meeting to discuss their divisions on policing. Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and SDLP leader Mark Durkan met early on Tuesday April 30 to discuss the division between the two parties over support for Police Service of Northern Ireland.
05 November 2018
Tony Blair: There Is No Answer To The 'Irish Issue'
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has said there is no solution to the problem of the Irish border, a key sticking point in Brexit negotiations.
16 October 2018
DUP Issue Threat Over Brexit Backstop Deal
The DUP's deputy leader has threatened to paralyse the government's domestic agenda if Northern Ireland's place in the union is jeopardised by a Brexit deal. Warning Prime Minister Theresa May, Nigel Dodds said his party would stop short of triggering a general election, as he spoke ahead of a cabinet meeting in London.
03 July 2018
Prime Minister Accused Of 'Failing Women' In NI
The UK Prime Minister Theresa May has been accused of "failing women" amid calls to gives MPs the opportunity to liberalise Northern Ireland's abortion laws. Mrs May has faced increasing pressure in Westminster to intervene and take action on NI's restrictive abortion laws, which remain different to legislation across the rest of the UK.
08 November 2018
Other News In Brief
Belfast Flight Nosedived 500ft Due To Error A Flybe flight plummeted 500 feet in 18 seconds after an incorrect autopilot setting caused it to aim for the ground, an investigation has found.
08 March 2018
Former First Minister Was Wrong To Block Funding For Legacy Inquests
A judge has ruled that the former First Minister's decision to block funding for a plan for legacy inquests was unlawful and flawed. A High Court judge said Arlene Foster's decision, that £150 million allocated as part of the Stormont House Agreement should await the outcome of an overall package dealing with all legacy issues, was wrong.
23 April 2003
Lawlor murder investigators issue photo-fit
Police investigating the murder of Catholic teenager Gerard Lawlor have issued a CD-fit of a man they are trying to identify in order to further their enquiries. Police are appealing for information on a man seen in a car at the entrance to Bellevue Zoo on the night of Mr Lawlor's murder.
11 July 2001
STILL NO BREAKTHROUGH IN WESTON PARK TALKS
HOPES that a breakthrough in talks could be brokered were dampened on Wednesday with Northern Ireland’s political leaders offering grim summaries of the proceedings at Weston Park in Staffordshire.
18 October 2010
Politicians Help 'Kick Hate Into Touch'
An innovative campaign, the 'Unite Against Hate' sporting weekend has been launched. Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson and his Junior Minister Gerry Kelly (pictured) joined forces to support the campaign which highlights all forms of hate crime and challenges people here to unite to stop it.
07 March 2002
Adams says Sinn Fein have not asked for 'amnesties'
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has moved quickly to scotch the rumours that his party are in negotiations to establish an amnesty for on-the-run terrorists. The Sinn Fein president made his remarks following a Commons question by UUP leader David Trimble to the Prime Minister on Wednesday 6 March.
14 March 2016
First Minister And Deputy First Minister Begin US Visit
The First Minister and deputy First Minister are in the United States to meet with firms to invest in Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness have started their four-day visit in New York and will also travel to Washington and San Francisco.
20 July 2018
Theresa May's Border Visit Is 'Too Little, Too Late' - SF
Prime Minister Theresa May's visit to the Irish border is "too little, too late", according to Sinn Fein. Mrs May was meeting with business owners in Northern Ireland on Thursday, 19 July. Deputy leader of the party, Michelle O'Neill, said Mrs May would hear about the "catastrophic implications" of Brexit.
20 July 2018
SDLP Slams DWP Over ESA Underpayments
The SDLP has hit out at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after new findings revealed ESA underpayments were avoidable. Deputy leader of the party Nichola Mallon said the findings from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) show the DWPs "total lack of disregard for the welfare of claimants who rely on the payments".