Summit talks fail to set election date
The Irish Prime Minister, An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern claimed this
evening that he has worked out an action plan for the northern peace
process but admitted that no date has been set date for long-delayed
Assembly elections. His comments came following a meeting with the
British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London this afternoon.
The meeting was intended to plot a course for the peace over the next
couple of months through the traditionally stormy Protestant marching
Leaving No 10 Downing Street, Mr Ahern said that the meeting had given
him and Mr Blair the opportunity to work out a plan over the next few
weeks to implement elements of their Joint Declaration. The Joint
Declaration was published in May and contained a plan to implement
elements of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
He said: "I do believe there is still enormous hope and, I think,
belief that if we can get over the difficulties and get through the
next number of months - through the marching season - in decent
condition, then we can get back on the political agenda.
"That's what we are putting all our time and effort into achieving
I am confident we can do that."
Following a meeting in London earlier today between Britain's Northern
Secretary Paul Murphy and the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr
Cowen, a timetable was released of work to be undertaken over the
coming months to complete elements of the Agreement.
But there was no mention in the timetable of any possible date for
elections to the assembly.
"The Irish Government remains convinced that we need to proceed to
elections as envisaged in order to provide that momentum and sustain
it," Mr Cowen said earlier after his meeting.
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble was also holding meetings in
London with the current internal dispute in his party the subsject of
Mr Trimble continues to face internal dissent over his failure to
reject outright the governments' Joint Declaration. He faces a vote of
no confidence in his constituency on July 8, while moves by the party
leadership to expel three dissident MPs from the party later this month
are expected to face legal challenges.
Sinn Fein Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin today accused the British and
Irish governments of pandering to unionism amid republican
disappointment at the continuing departure by Britain from democratic
norms in the Six Counties.
Mr. McLaughlin said a firm date for the cancelled Assembly elections
should have been the outcome of today's meetings.
"We need to see political progress. The political process needs to
restarted. The cancellation of elections and the continued absence of
political institutions can only undermine confidence in politics.
Mr McLuaghlin added that the establishment of an International
Monitoring Body, the subject of speculation in advance of the talks,
was "entirely outside of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement"
would be "entirely the wrong focus".
There was no announcement this evening that the body, with the power to
sanction Sinn Fein, would be set up in a reported bid to shore up
support for David Trimble and his Ulster Unionist Party.
"The idea of such a body is a sop to unionism and encourages negative
unionism in its opposition to equality and inclusivity," McLaughlin
"Instead the two governments should defend the Agreement and
demonstrate that politics and the political process is effective."