01 December 2005

Sinn Féin press for 'historic' meeting with Paisley


01/12/2005 - 17:37:13

A face-to-face meeting between Gerry Adams and the Rev Ian Paisley would be truly historic, Sinn Féin claimed tonight.

The party warmly welcomed a first-ever meeting between Mr Paisley and Irish Opposition leader Enda Kenny in Belfast tomorrow.

But Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator Martin McGuinness added: “The really historic meeting will be the meeting between Mr Paisley and Mr Adams.”

Party leader Mr Adams earlier said of the talks: “I think the more dialogue there is, the better. It’s for everybody’s benefit that all sides of the political equation should be talking to each other.”

The Sinn Féin leaders were speaking after holding talks with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Dublin.

Mr Adams said the people of Ireland expected the British and Irish governments to have a plan in early 2006 to restore power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland.

Mr Kenny will tomorrow head a four-member Fine Gael delegation to meet Mr Paisley, DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson, MP Nigel Dodds and party chairman Maurice Morrow at Stormont Buildings.

The Mayo TD will also hold talks with a SDLP delegation led by deputy leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell.

A first meeting between Fine Gael and the Ulster Unionist Party’s new leader Sir Reg Empey is also planned at its Belfast headquarters.

The Fine Gael delegation includes opposition justice spokesman Jim O’Keeffe, British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body vice-chairman and Border TD Seymour Crawford and Seanad leader and Northern Ireland spokesman Brian Hayes.

“Mr Paisley requested to meet Fine Gael when he last visited Government Buildings on November 18, but it didn’t suit our diary,” a Fine Gael spokesman said.

“We were then happy to agree to pay a return visit to Belfast.”

A DUP spokesman said: “The DUP welcomes tomorrow’s meeting and is looking forward to it.

“The party welcomes all engagement with constitutional parties in the Republic.”

Fine Gael said the talks with Mr Paisley will include a general discussion focusing on the peace process, on-the-runs legislation, proposed Dáil speaking rights for Northern MPs and other current issues.

“It will be a get-to-know-you session while also concentrating on some of the current pressing North-South issues,” a party spokesman said.

Mr Paisley visited Dublin for political talks with the Irish Government for the first time last autumn and made a return trip last month.

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