US representatives express regret at Trimble's actions

In a statement issued following the breakdown of the progress towards agreement on Tuesday, US Senator Chris Dodd expressed regret at the actions of David Trimble and urged that the elections proceed as scheduled. He said:

``In the midst of so much bad news, it is refreshing to see that Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern remain dedicated to the pursuit of peaceful resolutions of political conflicts.

``I welcome the announcement of Northern Ireland Assembly elections, which have been set for 26 November. These elections are a critical stepping stone to getting the Northern Ireland Peace Process back on track.

``I commend Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams for his tireless efforts to finally remove the bullet and the bomb from Irish politics and for the IRA's timely and concrete demonstration of its decision to once and for all renounce violence as a means of redressing past grievances.

``I urge all of the parties of Northern Ireland to embrace these positive developments and work toward the holding of credible elections and the standing up of the Northern Ireland Assembly so that the people of Northern Ireland can be governed by leaders of their choice.

``It is with great regret that it now appears that the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party may not be prepared to embrace these positive developments.

``I urge him to reconsider. In any event, the people of Northern Ireland deserve and should have elections as scheduled.''

Congressman Richard Neal, Co-chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs, echoed this disappointent, saying it was now up to the Ulster Unionists to demonstrate their commitment to the democratic process.

``What started out as a day that had the potential of being the most significant on the island of Ireland since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, turned into another setback for the peace process. After weeks of intense discussions, British Prime Minster Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern kept their word and announced a date for elections to the suspended Northern Ireland Assembly. Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams once again reaffirmed his party's commitment to the full and final closure of the conflict. An unprecedented amount of arms was put beyond use by the IRA.

``But when it came time for David Trimble to live up to his end of the bargain, he simply lost his nerve.

``Much progress has been made in recent weeks to move the peace process forward. I have no doubt that Prime Minister Blair and Taoiseach Ahern will redouble their efforts to find a solution to today's unexpected development.

``I would expect the vast majority of the pro-Agreement parties to do the same. But after today's unfortunate events, it is the Ulster Unionist Party who must demonstrate their commitment to the democratic process.''

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