Talks to follow DUP's North-South shift
Talks to follow DUP's North-South shift

Intense ``proximity talks'' are reportedly being planned for three weeks time as the Irish and British Prime Ministers seek to follow on from the latest proposals by Ian Paisley's DUP.

British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy said the two Prime Ministers hoped to tackle the problems of paramilitarism and power-sharing in the London session.

Mr Murphy said: ``When Tony Blair left, he made it clear that it was his and Bertie Ahern's intention to have an intensive period of discussion with the political parties and the two governments.

``This will happen in London, but clearly it is very important that the talks do happen and that we can try and resolve the issues that are in front of us.''

Mr Ahern and Mr Blair believe progress can be made in London before the June elections after the DUP stated in new proposals that it is prepared to operate the North-South element of the Good Friday Agreement as long as it is accountable to a Six-County administration in Belfast.

The document, entitled ``North South/East West'', details the party's proposals for future British-Irish and cross-Border relations.

The DUP also called for a 30-year moratorium on border polls for a united Ireland, arguing that it would allow a period of stability to develop.

``In order to create the best context to make progress we believe that there should be an agreement between the parties, backed by legislation which would prevent a border poll for the next 30 years,'' said Nigel Dodds, the DUP MP for North Belfast.

The DUP said the key to cordial North-South and East-West relations was ``accountability, accountability, accountability'' to the Stormont Assembly. It stressed that successfully dealing with North-South matters first hinged on restoring devolution in the North.

The DUP indicated it would co-operate with the North-South Ministerial Council, which it so far has boycotted. And while it still boycotts the British-Irish Parliamentary Body, it proposed the creation of a British Isles Council, comprising members from the Assembly, the Dail, Westminster and the administrations in Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.

It said that there should be greater emphasis on the British-Irish link.

Mr Martin McGuinness, in Sinn Féin's initial response, said the idea of ``long-fingering a referendum on Irish unity'' for 30 years was ``totally unacceptable''.

``It runs contrary to the terms of the Agreement and is a non starter,'' he said.

He said he believed the DUP was ready for an ``all-Ireland dimension''.

``I think it is important to recognise the DUP have addressed the all-Ireland dimension. If this represents an acceptance of the reality of the all-Ireland dimension then they should talk to us about it,'' he said.

In a statement he added: ``The Good Friday Agreement was endorsed by the people of Ireland, north and south. The Agreement will not be re-negotiated and is the benchmark for any proposals the DUP make.''

Ulster Unionist leader Mr David Trimble, who has previously called for a border poll, said that unionists had nothing to fear from such a vote. He added that the DUP was effectively endorsing the Good Friday Agreement.

Meanwhile, DUP leader Ian Paisley said yesterday that he wants information on the precise terms of any agreements, conditional or otherwise, entered into by either government and any or all of the participants of the previous talks process.

Mr Paisley said: ``The DUP has now published its proposals for the relationship between Northern Ireland and other regions within the British Isles.

``Combined with our proposals for the return of devolution to Northern Ireland these policies represent a serious contribution to the present political debate.

``However, as indicated in the (Easter) statement from the IRA there are deals and agreements which it is waiting to have implemented. I have written to the prime minister asking him to detail in full the precise terms of any agreements.''

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