Key motion lifts Ulster talks out of the trenches
Substantive negotiations on Northern Ireland's future are ready to open on Tuesday after the multi-party talks surmounted a significant hurdle. David McKittrick reports from Belfast.
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Thursday 25 September 1997
All the parties voted unanimously in a series of votes, the exception being Sinn Fein's opposition to a section on arms decommissioning. However, the development was hailed as a significant breakthrough in a joint statement from Tony Blair and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.
The Prime Minister said: "I am delighted at today's agreement in Belfast to launch formally the substantive negotiations on a lasting political settlement for Northern Ireland and set up the independent commission on decommissioning. We and others have worked hard to achieve this."
David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist Party leader, said: "Sinn Fein are taking the first faltering steps towards an acceptance of partition."
Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein's president, said: "This is an historic day. There is a heavy onus on all the parties to now get down to the real and urgent business of making progress."
Earlier, the British government rejected an Ulster Unionist demand for the expulsion of Sinn Fein on the grounds that the party contained "unreconstructed terrorists" who remained uncommitted to principles of non-violence and democracy.
Mo Mowlam, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, declared that the party had not breached the six Mitchell principles. Despite protests, Mr Trimble's Ulster Unionists, accepted the ruling, having committed themselves by making it clear that they would remain in the talks process even if they lost out on the expulsion issue.
It was also announced that the Canadian general, John de Chastelein, would head the international body which is to deal with the issue of arms decommissioning in parallel with the political talks.
Opinions differed, however, on whether the issue had been effectively set aside or simply parked to be the subject of further controversy at a later stage.
The substantive negotiations have been organised into three strands dealing with the internal administration of Northern Ireland, North-South relations and over-arching relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.
1 Hillary Clinton will visit Belfast next month to pay tribute to the peace activist Joyce McCarten, the White House said yesterday. She will speak at the University of Ulster, which is dedicating a scholarly post to Mrs McCarten, who died last year after founding a support group for women whose children have been killed in the conflict.
- 1 Reyhaneh Jabbari: Iran due to execute woman for murder of her alleged attempted rapist
- 2 Expert urges cat lovers to own just one animal each
- 3 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 4 The Simpsons death: Creator Al Jean would 'kill himself' before character like Homer or Lisa
- 5 British man raped while urinating in bushes at Oktoberfest beer festival in Germany
Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
Isis an hour away from Baghdad - with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
The Aral Sea: Nasa pictures show how what was once the fourth largest lake in the world has become almost completely dry
British man raped while urinating in bushes at Oktoberfest beer festival in Germany
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
'Women, walk wherever you want' posters taken down in Stamford Hill following 'unacceptable' signs separating men and women
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
- < Previous
- Next >
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...
£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...
£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...