Irish Republican News · October 6, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Fresh unionist demands at talks
Fresh unionist demands at talks

DUP leader Ian Paisley has presented British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London with 64 pages of fresh demands as efforts are renewed to restore power-sharing government to the North.

The DUP leader warned the British and Irish governments that he “will not be pushed over” when it came to talks involving Sinn Féin about the restoration of the Stormont Assembly.

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams also held a separate meeting in London with Tony Blair and British Direct Ruler Peter Hain.

Ian Paisley, who still refuses to speak directly to Sinn Féin, said he was demanding “equality” for unionists.

“We’re looking for the unionist community to be treated in exactly the same way as the republicans,” he said.

The British government’s so-called Independent Monitoring Commission will submit the second of two reports on the Provisional IRA in January, by which time it is hoped unionists will support a return to power-sharing.

Peter Hain described the talks as “very productive”.

Mr Hain said the government would “study carefully” the dossier presented by the DUP.

“Some of these measures have already been implemented and others will be implemented over the coming weeks,” he said.

Mr Adams said his party had held “a good and a positive meeting”. He said: “The main focus was about the speedy re-establishment of the political institutions.”

He said he was “quite dismissive of IMC reports” and insisted his party had a mandate to represent those people who voted for Sinn Féin.

“Let’s see what the IMC report says - but until then, let’s focus on the main issues.”

Meanwhile, the SDLP has held talks with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern in Dublin.

Party leader Mark Durkan said the meeting focussed on the need for both governments to persuade the DUP to enter into power-sharing government.

“The IRA failure to decommission gave unionists a veto over re-establishment of the Good Friday institutions,” he said.

“The IRA has decommissioned, and that unionist veto must now be gone.”

EU FUNDS CALL

Sinn Féin was also optimistic that the British government would apply for European Union money which has been set aside for peace and reconciliation projects in the North.

Party leader Gerry Adams insisting the party was assured the British government would apply for the funds.

The West Belfast MP who travelled to Brussels this week to lobby for the funds, said: “We were assured by the British Prime Minister that it will move to ensure that the application for PEACE III funding is processed quickly.

“This is good news for the many peace and reconciliatio projects which are dependant on EU funding.”

Mr Adams met the European Commission’s Regional Development Commissioner Danuta Hubner yesterday in a bid to advance the case for a new scheme.

“Yesterday in Brussels there was obvious concern that the hundreds of millions of euro potentially available for these projects might be lost if the British government did not apply for it.”

SF MP AT TORY CONFERENCE

Meanwhile, Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy this week became the first Sinn Féin representative to address the Conservative Party’s annual conference in Blackpool.

Speaking in a debate that involved Paisleyite MP Jeffrey Donaldson, Mr Murphy told the Tories: “Unionism needs to get real. Nationalists and republicans are no longer second-class citizens.

“Nationalists and republicans will never accept a return to the days of the unionist junta in Stormont.

“If unionism wants to exercise executive power, if unionism wants to deliver for the people of the North, then they are going to have to do that alongside Sinn Féin in the power-sharing institutions detailed in the Good Friday Agreement. There is no alternative plan. The Agreement is as good as it gets.”

Mr Murphy grabbed headlines by refusing to express regret for the IRA’s 1984 bombing on the British War Cabinet in Brighton.

His comments were immediately challenged by Ulster Unionist David Burnside but Mr Murphy said his only regret was that people had been driven to violence.

Speaking at a fringe meeting in Blackpool, Mr Murphy was asked if he regretted the attack, in which British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, had a narrow escape.

“At the time I certainly did not regret it, I will be honest with you,” Mr Murphy replied.

“I think it was part of a war, which was a very difficult war.”

But his comments were immediately set upon by unionists.

“You have no remorse or regret that these murders were carried out and you should lower your head,” said Ulster Unionist assembly member David Burnside.

© 2005 Irish Republican News