PAISLEY AND AHERN IN HISTORIC MEETING
Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley has held what he has
described as a "very constructive" meeting with Irish Prime
Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
Thursday's meeting in London, described by some as "historic",
came ahead of the opening session of the review of the 1998
Good Friday Agreement on 3 February.
The review will involve the British and Irish governments and
parties elected to the Belfast assembly last November. The DUP
are seeking to renegotiate the Agreement during the process
which could last until Easter, something which is bitterly
opposed by nationalists.
The DUP's five MPs accompanied their leader to the meeting at
the Irish Embassy in London. It was the first such meeting
between a DUP leader and an Irish premier.
Asked if he could do business with the Taoiseach, Mr Paisley
said: "I can do business with any man who is prepared to face
up to the issues. Today I think there was a facing up, perhaps
in a new context, with these issues."
Mr Ahern said they both wanted to see progress in the peace
process and "the end of the guns in Northern Ireland". But he
insisted the review would look only at the operation of the
1998 Good Friday Agreement and that "the fundamentals are not
up for negotiation".
He said he hoped contacts with the DUP would be broadened over
the coming weeks.
Mr Paisley said he reminded the Irish government that the
forthcoming Good Friday Agreement review had to be about
finding a deal that unionists as well as nationalists can
He said the DUP had told the Taoiseach that his party would
not be negotiating with them on matters relating to the
internal structures of how the Six Counties was governed. He
wanted to see see the creation of "good neighbourly relations"
with the 26 Counties.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams welcomed the meeting. However,
the West Belfast MP said during a visit to Galway that Mr
Ahern and his colleagues had to "defend, promote and implement
the Agreement and stand firm against those who would seek to
Mr Adams continued: "Let there be no appeasement of the DUP`s
position, which is built on exclusion, precondition and a
desire to end the Agreement.
"The people of this island voted overwhelmingly for the
Agreement, and in the 26 Counties the constitution was changed
to facilitate it."
The Sinn Fein leader also welcomed the DUP's participation in
the review of the Good Friday Agreement.
But he insisted Mr Paisley's party could not exercise a veto
during the review .over rights and entitlements of citizens".
"What it can have as a birthright the same as the rest of us
is equality - nothing more, nothing less."
* US President George W Bush's new adviser on Ireland is to
meet the North's political parties next week as they embark on
a review of the Belfast Agreement.
Mitchell Reiss, who was announced last December as the
replacement Ambassador Richard Haass, is expected to be
ratified this weekend as the President's new peace process
He is due to arrive in Belfast on Monday where he will meet
politicians taking part in the review which begins next
Tuesday. US officials said Dr Reiss would be "in a listening
Gerry Adams became the first Irish Ireland leader to meet Dr
Reiss during a visit to Washington last week.