Ahern, Blair to discuss post-election scenario
Ahern, Blair to discuss post-election scenario

The Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will meet the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair on Friday to discuss the peace process in the aftermath of today's election.

Counting should reach a conclusion on Friday afternoon, but the first indications will emerge on Wednesday night in an exit poll conducted by Irish television, expected to be released shortyl after the polls close on 10pm.

Full details of the exit poll and the count will be carried on this news service.

Despite reports of problems at many polling centres, with voters being turned away, there are fears, a late rush to the polls by people returning from work is currently underway this evening.

Voters are being urged to arrive as early as possible to ensure votes can be cast well in advance of the closing time.

When the votes are counted and the dust is settled, it appears the two governments will move swiftly to restore momentum into the talks process.

Mr Ahern has said the two governments would move rapidly to seek the full implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

He told a meeting in north Dublin on Tuesday night that the two governments were determined to bring finality to outstanding difficulties.

The last attempt to broker an agreement between Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists broke down last month after the Ulster Unionist David Trimble refused to go ahead wih his part of a deal, claiming that an act of IRA decommissioning verified by the IICD arms body, had not been sufficiently transparent.

The meeting in Cardiff will take place before the final result of the election is known although the two leaders will discuss the emerging trends.

``I do not know whether the full results of the election will be available at the time of our meeting but I hope that we can have some initial exchanges on the steps that we can take to restore the Assembly and the Executive,'' said Mr Ahern.

The ``core principles, values and protections'' set out in the agreement would not be affected in the review scheduled to begin in December, he said. Thus the fundamental elements of the agreement were not up for renegotiation.

This was seen as an implicit message to the DUP, who are publicly insisting they will ``renegotiate'' the Good Friday Agreement.

The Taoiseach said his priority after the election was to put a functioning power-sharing executive in place.

``This priority task should not be confused with the four-year review of the agreement which, in accordance with the terms of the agreement, will commence in December,'' he said.

``It is the intention of the two governments to consult with the parties prior to bringing forward proposals on the agenda and conduct of the review.''

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© 2003 Irish Republican News