DEFEND THE AGREEMENT - ADAMS
A series of talks are to take place before Christmas with a
view to salvaging the northern peace process.
The US Special Envoy, Richard Haass, is to hold a series of
meetings in London, Belfast and Dublin as efforts continue the
map the political geography following last week's election
successes for Sinn Fein and Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to hold talks
with key figures in London, his official spokesman said. The
nationalist parties, meanwhile, have held a meeting on the
defence of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in the months ahead.
Despite the emergence of the anti-Agreement DUP as the largest
party, it has been repeatedly pointed out that the majority of
people in the North support the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and
want to see it implemented.
Tony Blair described the outcome of the election as "a more
difficult situation". However, he claimed that there is "no
sense that the political situation which needs resolving is
going to lead to a security crisis."
Mr Blair was later accused of ignoring the ongoing terror
directed against the Catholic comunity -- including the murder
of James McMahon, who died after being viciously beaten by
three masked loyalists with baseball bats in Lisburn on
THREE-MONTH LIMIT FOR REVIEW
The current task for the two governments is to put together a
talks process which can involve the DUP, although hopes that
that process can succeed remain low.
It was reported this evening that a three-month deadline will
be put on the planned review of the Good Friday Agreement,
which is to officially get underway January. Following that,
according to official sources, an attempt will be made to
resurrect the Stormont Assembly and power-sharing Executive.
If that fails, a June deadline for a further election to the
Assembly will likely be set.
The DUP have already come under pressure to save the peace
process by firstly engaging in dialogue with Sinn Fein. But
DUP leaders have so far avoided specifics of what they plan to
"We recognise it might take a little time for some people to
acknowledge that there has been a swing in unionist opinion
and that change is going to be necessary," said DUP deputy
leader Peter Robinson.
Meanwhile, the party has vehemently denied reports it has held
secret talks with the Dublin government. Nigel Dodds, MP for
North Belfast, insisted any suggestion they had been involved
in such discussions was nothing but "wild accusations" and
During Northern Ireland questions in the House of Commons in
London, the SDLP's Seamus Mallon asked Northern Secretary Paul
Murphy what he knew about negotiations between the DUP and the
He asked what indication the DUP had given to the Irish
Government that it wanted to "work the Agreement rather than
He asked "when we might expect these poachers to become
Mr Dodds rubbished Mr Mallon's claims describing them as
"completely false." Claims of a similar nature published at
the weekend by a Sunday newspaper were now "the subject of
legal action", he added.
In these circumstances, many remain to be convinced that the
DUP will engage in positive dialogue to end the political
An Ulster Unionist spokesman said: "We will see what happens
when they have to make tough decisions. It is likely they will
just revert to type and run away.
"It will be interesting to see if they can prove us wrong."
However, the UUP have still not resolved their own divisions
over the Agreement. At the House of Commons today, party leder
David Trimble instead chose to put pressure on Republicans for
more concessions on arms decommissioning.
SF SEEKS 'PRO-AGREEMENT AXIS'
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said he is holding a
series of meetings as part of an effort to develop a
co-ordinated approach to defending the Good Friday Agreement.
"There is also an onus on the pro-Agreement parties to prepare
for the review to ensure that the principles, structures and
ethos of the Agreement are protected and developed," he added.
And speaking in advance of an address at Trinity College in
Dublin tonight, Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness
MP said that "the minority rejectionist position must not be
allowed to place a stranglehold on future progress".
Mr McGuinness pointed out that it last weeks election, almost
half a million people voted for pro-Agreement parties.
"That is 70% of the total electorate," he said. "Their
must be heard and not drowned out by the rejectionist camp who
gained around 30% of the votes.
"It is my belief that a way can be found through the current
difficulties. But I am a realist. We have since the election
sought meetings with the Taoiseach and the British Prime
Minister and the other parties.
"We need to build a pro-Agreement axis which will either
compel the DUP into the institutions or, if they refuse, will
leave them behind.
"But the increase in the DUP vote first and foremost poses a
challenge for the British government.
"The DUP can refuse to participate in the institutions, that
is up to them. But they cannot be allowed to veto the other
elements of the Agreement.
"It is therefore up to Mr Blair along with Mr Ahern to proceed
with their commitments on the other outstanding matters."