06 April 2006

Ahern & Blair to launch NI initiative


06 April 2006 07:24

The Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister travel to Armagh later today to launch a new political initiative.

At a news conference, Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair will outline their proposals for restoring devolved government at Stormont.

Eight years after they brokered the Good Friday Agreement, the two leaders will today launch an initiative to tackle the unfinished political business in Northern Ireland.

In 1998, Ian Paisley and the DUP turned their backs on the deal that was done.

The arrangement being floated today would seek to get all the main parties, including the DUP, into a power sharing Assembly by the end of the year.

In this new formula rules are being bent: in normal times the parties would have six weeks to agree on the carve up of jobs in a power-sharing executive. And if no deal emerged the Assembly would collapse.

Today the two leaders will say the parties have six months up to 24 November to cut a deal, with a two-month summer recess included.

The hope of the two governments is that, if the parties get inside the doors of Stormont and start talking about practical issues like attracting investment and proposed water charges, they might just find common ground.

It is thought the biggest danger is parties might walk away from the table even before the dealing starts.

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