Ahern in mission to bolster peace deal

ATTEMPTS TO make progress on the arms decommissioning issue moved up a gear yesterday with the Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, travelling to Belfast for talks with the major political players.

The Irish government is anxious both to tackle the de-commissioning question and to inject a fresh sense of momentum into the peace process as a whole. Although work is going on at many levels, the key steps of how and when a new executive and new north-south links will be established remain in doubt.

Mr Ahern's meetings with a range of parties took place against a tense background following the loyalist killing of a Catholic man, Brian Service, who was shot in north Belfast at the weekend. He was a random victim of a recently emerged group styling itself the Red Hand Defenders.

There has been speculation that the group is a breakaway faction from an organisation such as the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), which has declared itself to be on ceasefire.

Billy Hutchinson, of the Progressive Unionist Party, said he feared for the safety of people in north Belfast, adding: "If they are a splinter group from the LVF then we can expect more killings and I would advise all people in north Belfast to be on their guard."

Mr Ahern made it clear yesterday he did not expect early breakthroughs to emerge from his visit. "We have an agreement to implement, and the one thing I am not going to tolerate is that we all sit about wondering what we might be able to do. We really have to move things and today everybody has to say, 'Let us keep moving, vacuums are dangerous'."

In other meetings, Northern Ireland's First Minister, David Trimble, met representatives of the Democratic Unionist Party and the UK Unionists. The DUP deputy leader, Peter Robinson, said he believed preparations were being made for a visit by Tony Blair in the near future in an attempt to break the deadlock.

In a Dublin newspaper article, Mr Trimble said he believed they were on the verge of an historic breakthrough but accused Sinn Fein of being "bent on a wrecking strategy". He said recent republican rhetoric suggested they were pursuing not a peace strategy but a "threat-of-return-to-war" strategy. His deputy, Seamus Mallon of the SDLP, said: "We must move this forward, we must do it quickly and in a way that assures the entire community that those who carried out that awful murder are not the people who are going to write the agenda for all of us in the north of Ireland."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
Tax now accounts for ‘nearly 80%’ of the price of a bottle of whisky
news

Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will b...

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Entry Administrator

£10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee