Ahern cedes Ulster claim

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The Independent Online
Bertie Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister, last night said he would be happy to see David Trimble, the Ulster Unionists leader, become head of a powerful Ulster administration as part of a negotiated peace settlement for the province.

He confirmed in an interview that the Irish government is ready to drop its constitutional claim over Northern Ireland; a north-south cross-border authority was likely to cover fisheries, agriculture, transport, health, energy and education standards.

Mr Ahern will go to Stormont amid rising optimism that progress between the parties can be made. He told the Financial Times that going over the heads of the leaders with a deal agreed by the two governments was "too horrible to imagine".