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.

21 May 2019
8.1% Of NI Youths Out Of Work
16,000 young people in Northern Ireland aged between 16 and 24 are not in employment, education or training (NEET), it has emerged. The Labour Force Survey, released by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) found that 8.
17 May 2019
Party Leaders Call For Abuse Victim Compensation
Political leaders in Northern Ireland have penned a joint letter to the Secretary of State Karen Bradley urging her to bring forward legislation to compensate victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse.
21 May 2019
Other News In Brief
SF 'Appalled' At Govt Treatment Of Historical Abuse Victims Sinn Fein's European candidate and current MEP Martina Anderson has condemned the actions of Secretary of State Karen Bradley in stalling the redress scheme for victims of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland.
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.
29 April 2019
Patients Coming To Harm In Health Service Crisis- UUP
A UUP MLA has condemned the "deteriorating situation" facing local healthcare in Northern Ireland, saying that patients are coming to harm as a result of long waits for treatment. Health Spokesperson Roy Beggs said it is medically accepted that the longer people wait for treatment, the greater harm they may ultimately come to.