Irish Republican News · December 8, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
DUP to hold talks with Dublin

Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party is to hold talks with the Irish government to discuss the party's possible participation in a review of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, to get underway next month.

In a series of interviews, Deputy leader Peter Robinson said his party was willing to meet with the Dublin administration in the wake of its success in last week's elections to the Belfast Assembly at Stormont.

``We have indicated that, as part of the process in which we are engaged, it is necessary for us to have a good relationship with our neighbour in the Irish Republic,'' he said.

``The north-south relations are one of the three strands that have to be dealt with so, therefore, of course we will meet with the government of the Irish Republic.

Robinson pointed out that the party had held talks with the Dublin government several years ago. ``It's not a first for us,'' he said.

He added that his party's participation in the review could not be taken for granted. but would depend on the content of the talks.

He said ``vital issues'' such as north-south relations, policing and equality must be included.

Mr Robinson also scoffed at the notion the review could lead to a rule change which would allow Ulster Unionists and other parties to return to devolution without DUP approval.

``I think that any rump of unionists that thinks it can thumb its nose at the unionist electorate, and go through the back door and chum up with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and try and change the rules to cheat their way into government, will find that they will get short shrift with the Northern Ireland unionist electorate,'' he said.

Although the DUP refuses to negotiate directly with Sinn Féin, it is understood the party will submit papers to the British government on which it may consult Sinn Féin.

``What we are doing is seeking a change of structure,'' Robinson said. ``(David) Trimble's policy was to try to get the Shinners to change. I don't want to be dependent on the good behaviour of the IRA. It is far better that we have structures that can endure no matter how they behave.''

As a result the DUP will place less emphasis on decommissioning than the Ulster Unionist party. ``Decommissioning helps in terms of the atmosphere but it won't be the key factor on whether you have stability in Northern Ireland,'' he said. ``We want structures that will survive any set of circumstances.''

It is understood that the DUP is proposing a system of government in which powers would be devolved to the assembly and not to ministers. The assembly could then suspend ministers if their parties or paramilitary groups misbehaved. There would be a corresponding weakening of the power of cross-border bodies.

Such proposals would be unacceptable to nationalists and could result in the negotiations collapsing quickly.

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© 2003 Irish Republican News