Mowlam in crisis talks on peace process

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The Independent Online
NORTHERN IRELAND Secretary Mo Mowlam will today hear of deepening Irish unease over the state of the peace process in crisis talks in Dublin with the Taoiseach and Irish foreign minister.

The latest meeting comes with both governments seeing no solution in sight to the IRA arms decommissioning logjam and, without it, a hardening of Ulster Unionist opposition to Sinn Fein joining the Northern Ireland Executive. Senior sources described the situation as "very bleak", with Irish ministers concerned that further disunity or realignment in republican paramilitary ranks may hinder any compromise.

The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, maintains the arms issue can only be resolved through the decommissioning body, but Irish sources admit no progress is being made.

Challenged in the Dail yesterday, Mr Ahearn declined to give official weight to suggestions of weakening IRA discipline. An armed robbery on a security van in south Dublin last month by five masked men armed with Kalashnikov rifles was widely linked to dissident republicans and, in one newspaper recently, disaffected IRA members. The IRA has more than 500 of the rifles, supplied by Libya in the mid-Eighties. Mr Ahern said despite widespread speculation immediately afterwards about one group's involvement, gardai had not yet concluded whether the raid was definitely paramilitary or criminal. He rejected press suggestions that the government was suppressing knowledge of IRA involvement.

Pressed by Opposition parties, he agreed to ask garda authorities to state which paramilitary groups were apparently behind specific military- style actions once investigations were complete.

On Sunday's reported abduction of dissident republican and former IRA prisoner Paddy Fox, Mr Ahern said he regarded "any act of violence as a breach of the ceasefires" but said the difficulty lay in providing proof. He also rejected further calls to name paramilitary suspects.