David Trimble, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, will meet John Bruton, the Irish Prime Minister, tonight in an unusual act of political fence- mending, born out of their mutual loathing of the IRA.
Earlier this year, Dick Spring, the Irish Foreign Minister, once described by the Ulster Unionists as "the most hated man in Northern Ireland", tried to hold talks with Mr Trimble but never got further than his answering machine.
Just a few days ago Mr Trimble declined to meet Mr Spring in Belfast and instead held talks about plans for elections with officials in London, to emphasise the Ulster Unionists' view that Dublin should not interfere in Northern Ireland.
But yesterday Mr Trimble praised a speech by Mr Bruton on Saturday in which he strongly criticised the IRA and Sinn Fein and challenged republicans "to stop thinking in terms of threats and start thinking in terms of peaceful persuasion".
Mr Trimble told Sky News yesterday: "I am absolutely delighted at what John Bruton said about the need for a new ceasefire that is genuine, on the need for negotiations with a complete absence of threats. I think that is quite right."
Tonight's talks in Dublin are a reflection of the common view held by the Unionists and the Irish government that Sinn Fein should be excluded from the all-party talks due to start on 10 June until the IRA announces a renewed ceasefire.
The growing pressure on Sinn Fein to persuade the IRA to renew the ceasefire was shown when the US government confirmed Mr Trimble would be attending next week's St Patrick's Day celebrations at the White House while Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, has not been invited.
It is still not clear whether the small bomb which exploded outside Brompton Cemetery in west London early on Saturday morning was an IRA device.Reuse content