Dublin fears a walk-out at talks

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The Independent Online
IRISH and British ministers yesterday refused to be deflected by pressure from the Rev Ian Paisley, the Democratic Unionist leader, for a referendum in the Irish Republic on its constitutional claim to Northern Ireland.

Delegations from the two governments met in Dublin yesterday for five hours to open strand three of the Northern Ireland talks amid growing Irish fears that Mr Paisley may use the territorial claim in articles two and three of the republic's constitution as a pretext to leave the talks if his demand is not met.

Yesterday's discussions reviewed progress in the other two strands, with the question of the DUP's direction one of the items considered. At a later stage, the two governments may consider how any formula agreed with northern parties might be implemented.

David Andrews, the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister, said he had listened to comments from Mr Paisley 'more in sorrow than in anger'. Asked for his response to the DUP leader's call for a referendum, he said 'wait and see'.

At the weekend, Mr Paisley had warned that strand two talks between Dublin and the northern parties would be at an end unless the Irish government offered to hold a referendum.

He called for such an unconditional commitment to be 'put on the table' if any progress was to be made.

Irish ministers are concerned that the scheduled September meeting in Dublin with the Unionists could provide a stage for a high-profile walk-out from the talks by Dr Paisley. Other Unionist politicians have been highly critical of what they see as Mr Paisley's ham-fisted approach to the talks and the apparent breach of agreed rules on confidentiality in his ultimatum.

A spokesman for Albert Reynolds, the Irish Republic's Prime Minister, said he had 'consistently made it clear' that articles two and three and the Government of Ireland Act would be on the agenda for strands two and three. The talks were adjourned until September.