24 January 2006

Paisley shows DUP proposals to PM


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DUP leader Ian Paisley has presented his party's talks proposals to Prime Minister Tony Blair in London.

He raised concerns about a confidential police assessment that the IRA, and others, remain involved in organised crime.

Facing Reality, the DUP's latest 16 page blueprint, has not been released.

However, it is understood to propose a two-stage process under which the Stormont assembly might be revived, without a power-sharing executive.

The meeting was held at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday.

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said that under the DUP plan, ministers would not be appointed until unionists were convinced republicans were committed to peaceful politics.

Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy said the DUP was "trying to turn the clock back" with the proposals it was submitting to Downing Street.

"The two governments have to act to build on the potential created by the IRA initiatives," he said.

"The DUP proposals which are being presented to Tony Blair this afternoon are about undoing all of this."

An Alliance Party delegation met Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists during separate talks on Tuesday.

Alliance leader David Ford said: "We are making it clear to other parties that in our view reform is the only valid pro-Agreement position, but that the broad principles of the Agreement remain in place.

"One of these is the assurance of full devolution, with an executive - that is what the people voted for and that is what they must get."

'Focus attention'

"Secret deals, closed door negotiations and the delivery of hugely unpalatable policies have all contributed to a crisis of confidence in the political process".
Jim Nicholson

Mr Blair will travel to Dublin later this week for talks with his Irish counterpart, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Both leaders are preparing for a fresh talks initiative after the publication of an Independent Monitoring Commission report on paramilitary activity at the end of the month.

The SDLP's North Belfast assembly member Alban Maginness urged the two governments to reject the "latest shopping list" from the DUP.

"The two governments must hold firm and focus attention on an inclusive way forward by naming a date for restoration of the institutions," he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Ulster Unionists formally launched their plans for the NI Assembly to sit while Secretary of State Peter Hain and his ministerial team administered government departments.

The party plan would see a "sunset clause" which would see the assembly operate until April 2007.

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey said: "The Ulster Unionist Party is not interested in the assembly resuming as a talking shop - the favoured route of some parties.

"However, we cannot underestimate the damage republicans have done to the ability of the pro-Union community to tolerate an all-inclusive executive. It is immense and deep seated.

"The current stream of concessions to republicans is re-enforcing this view."

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