Trimble says he will not shake hands with Adams

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The Independent Online
DAVID TRIMBLE, Northern Ireland's First Minister, said last night that he will refuse to shake Gerry Adams' hand when he meets the Sinn Fein leader for talks this week.

Mr Trimble was given the go-ahead for the face-to-face meeting by the Ulster Unionist Party ruling executive. But dissent within the Ulster Unionist executive surfaced, with hardliners, including four MPs, putting their names to a statement expressing concern about Mr Trimble's planned meeting with Mr Adams.

The First Minister has also staked his credibility on asserting that decommissioning of IRA weapons is now inevitable. He based his confidence on Sinn Fein's decision to appoint Martin McGuinness to co-operate with the international body on decommissioning. Mr Trimble said in an interview last night: "They have put themselves on an escalator and the escalator will inevitably lead to actual decommissioning."

But it was not enough to satisfy the hardliners. Executive member Arlene Foster issued a brief statement, saying no endorsement had either been sought or given for the leader's decision to have a bilateral meeting with Sinn Fein. The statement, supported by MPs William Ross, Martin Smyth, Jeffrey Donaldson and Clifford Forsythe - who was not at the meeting - said: "In fact, at the executive meeting there were various voices expressing concern about such a meeting."

While the Ulster Unionists were issuing their statement, Catholic stores were firebombed in Portadown, County Armagh.

n A married father of four became the latest victim of the Omagh bomb yesterday when he died in hospital. Sean McGrath, 61, was the 29th person to die following the explosion three weeks ago.

David McKittrick, page 8