All-party Ulster talks 'two years away'

THE START of inclusive round- table negotiations involving the British and Irish governments and Northern Ireland parties is probably two years away, according to the Government's private estimate.

London sources say scaling down the security apparatus and easing Sinn Fein into the political process will be so long and painstaking that full negotiations are not expected before the autumn of 1996. This working assumption is not likely to find favour with the Irish government and other parties.

Albert Reynolds, the Irish Prime Minister, has often spoken of his desire to move forward speedily. The Irish government has already moved faster than London, with Mr Reynolds shaking hands with Gerry Adams to mark Sinn Fein's entry into the political fold.

Dick Spring, the Irish foreign minister, has also wasted no time in meeting President Clinton and European leaders to stitch together support for the peace process. London's estimate of the pace will not suit Washington, which is apparently pressing for swift progress.

A senior British source said: 'If we play our cards carefully and do not let either the republican side or the loyalist side get completely disillusioned, then we're into a proper negotiated peace. But there are minefields all over the place.'

Official sources concede that John Major and Sir Patrick Mayhew, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, are concerned not to alienate right-wing Tory backbenchers and James Molyneaux's Ulster Unionist Party in the delicate manoeuvrings ahead.

The Government's time-scale will chime with Mr Molyneaux's view that movement should take place slowly. This pace has already led to some friction with the Irish government, which has shown irritation and impatience with London's responses to the IRA ceasefire. Mr Reynolds has said he hopes to have his Forum for Peace and Reconciliation up and running before the end of next month.

British government sources say they expect considerable activity from the forum in the form of bilateral meetings in the coming months. A 'framework document' being drawn up by London and Dublin and due for publication later this year will give indications of the thinking of the two governments. London foresees a two-stage process, with the establishment of permanent peace and then political talks to hammer out a settlement.

The assessment that political negotiations are two years away may help explain why the Prime Minister dealt so brusquely with the Rev Ian Paisley at their Downing Street meeting last week, since after that encounter the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party could hardly be expected to return to talks soon.

Ministers are also studying the implications of an end to violence in the economic and security fields. More than 30,000 people are involved in security jobs, including soldiers, police, prison officers, and the local Royal Irish Regiment.

Labour was yesterday urged to allow people in Northern Ireland to join the party and organise. The move, a sign of the pressure for rapid change in the province in the wake of the IRA ceasefire, came from Democracy Now, a grouping backed by 50 Labour MPs.

Support comes from both the left and right of the party and from Lord Fitt and Paddy Devlin, two of the founders of the SDLP - Labour's sister socialist party in Northern Ireland.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?