18 November 2005

Ahern's power-sharing plea to Paisley


18/11/2005 - 07:16:28

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will urge the Rev Ian Paisley today to enter government in Northern Ireland with Sinn Féin early next year.

Mr Paisley is heading a Democratic Unionist Party delegation in Dublin for the first formal talks with the Irish government since the IRA announced an end to its 36-year armed campaign in late July.

It is also the first face-to face contact between Mr Ahern and Mr Paisley since the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) confirmed in September that the IRA had completed arms decommissioning.

An Irish Government spokesman said of today’s talks: “The meeting with the DUP is the latest in a round of discussions between the Taoiseach and Northern Ireland political parties.

“The agenda will centre around the need to find consensus on Mr Ahern’s stated objective to commence Northern Ireland power-sharing talks in the spring.”

Mr Ahern hopes talks to restore the suspended Northern Ireland Assembly can begin if the IMC gives the IRA a clean bill of health in its next report in January.

However Mr Paisley, who was appointed to the Queen’s Privy Council last month, remains unconvinced that the IRA has severed all links with criminality.

In October 2004, Mr Paisley visited Dublin for the first political meeting with an Irish head of government.

Two months later, a power-sharing deal with Sinn Féin collapsed because the DUP insisted on visual evidence of IRA decommissioning.

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