Fresh unionist demands at talks
DUP leader Ian Paisley has presented British Prime Minister Tony
Blair in London with 64 pages of fresh demands as efforts are renewed
to restore power-sharing government to the North.
The DUP leader warned the British and Irish governments that he
"will not be pushed over" when it came to talks involving Sinn
Fein about the restoration of the Stormont Assembly.
Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams also held a separate meeting in London
with Tony Blair and British Direct Ruler Peter Hain.
Ian Paisley, who still refuses to speak directly to Sinn Fein,
said he was demanding "equality" for unionists.
"We're looking for the unionist community to be treated in
exactly the same way as the republicans," he said.
The British government's so-called Independent Monitoring
Commission will submit the second of two reports on the
Provisional IRA in January, by which time it is hoped unionists
will support a return to power-sharing.
Peter Hain described the talks as "very productive".
Mr Hain said the government would "study carefully" the dossier
presented by the DUP.
"Some of these measures have already been implemented and others
will be implemented over the coming weeks," he said.
Mr Adams said his party had held "a good and a positive
meeting". He said: "The main focus was about the speedy
re-establishment of the political institutions."
He said he was "quite dismissive of IMC reports" and insisted
his party had a mandate to represent those people who voted for
"Let's see what the IMC report says - but until then, let's
focus on the main issues."
Meanwhile, the SDLP has held talks with Irish Prime Minister
Bertie Ahern in Dublin.
Party leader Mark Durkan said the meeting focussed on the need
for both governments to persuade the DUP to enter into
"The IRA failure to decommission gave unionists a veto over
re-establishment of the Good Friday institutions," he said.
"The IRA has decommissioned, and that unionist veto must now be
EU FUNDS CALL
Sinn Fein was also optimistic that the British government would
apply for European Union money which has been set aside for
peace and reconciliation projects in the North.
Party leader Gerry Adams insisting the party was assured the
British government would apply for the funds.
The West Belfast MP who travelled to Brussels this week to lobby
for the funds, said: "We were assured by the British Prime
Minister that it will move to ensure that the application for
PEACE III funding is processed quickly.
"This is good news for the many peace and reconciliatio projects
which are dependant on EU funding."
Mr Adams met the European Commission's Regional Development
Commissioner Danuta Hubner yesterday in a bid to advance the
case for a new scheme.
"Yesterday in Brussels there was obvious concern that the
hundreds of millions of euro potentially available for these
projects might be lost if the British government did not apply
SF MP AT TORY CONFERENCE
Meanwhile, Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy this week became the
first Sinn Fein representative to address the Conservative
Party's annual conference in Blackpool.
Speaking in a debate that involved Paisleyite MP Jeffrey
Donaldson, Mr Murphy told the Tories: "Unionism needs to get
real. Nationalists and republicans are no longer second-class
"Nationalists and republicans will never accept a return to the
days of the unionist junta in Stormont.
"If unionism wants to exercise executive power, if unionism
wants to deliver for the people of the North, then they are
going to have to do that alongside Sinn Fein in the
power-sharing institutions detailed in the Good Friday
Agreement. There is no alternative plan. The Agreement is as
good as it gets."
Mr Murphy grabbed headlines by refusing to express regret for
the IRA's 1984 bombing on the British War Cabinet in Brighton.
His comments were immediately challenged by Ulster Unionist
David Burnside but Mr Murphy said his only regret was that
people had been driven to violence.
Speaking at a fringe meeting in Blackpool, Mr Murphy was asked
if he regretted the attack, in which British Prime Minister,
Margaret Thatcher, had a narrow escape.
"At the time I certainly did not regret it, I will be honest
with you," Mr Murphy replied.
"I think it was part of a war, which was a very difficult war."
But his comments were immediately set upon by unionists.
"You have no remorse or regret that these murders were carried
out and you should lower your head," said Ulster Unionist
assembly member David Burnside.