Ahern may give way on reform of police in Ulster

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The Independent Online

The Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, held out the prospect yesterday of making concessions on policing reform in an effort to ease pressures on beleaguered Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble.

The Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, held out the prospect yesterday of making concessions on policing reform in an effort to ease pressures on beleaguered Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble.

Hinting that he might relax his position that the Patten report on policing must be implemented in full, Mr Ahern acknowledged that the Unionist leader faced real problems inside his party.

He said: "What we need now to do is to try to get compromises that can allow this to move forward successfully in the future. Unfortunately and regrettably he [Trimble] continues to have difficulties within his party and within his electorate. I feel obliged to try to assist him with the difficulty."

The Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, was quick to assert that he had received assurances that Dublin's position on the Patten report had not changed, and that the Taoiseach was "still committed to the full and faithful implementation of the Patten report".

Mr Trimble, however, welcomed Mr Ahern's comments. He added: "Some nationalists seem to think the sole purpose of Patten was to produce a report that nationalists wanted. The need for compromise is there and nationalists have to accept that."

Mr Trimble, who is expected to face a push within weeks from party critics who want him to bring down the new devolved Belfast executive, will be hoping that more helpful measures will emerge from a meeting in Downing Street between Mr Ahern and Tony Blair today.

He was also hoping that the IRA will arrange a second inspection of some of its arms dumps by international monitors, a move intended as a confidence-building measure.

Mr Ahern, in another comment clearly designed to soothe Unionist opinion, declared: "There is no will, no desire, no possibility of anyone forcing a majority of the people of Northern Ireland into a united Ireland against their will."

In the Belfast assembly Mr Trimble fended off a no-confidence motion put down by the Democratic Unionists, whom he accused of "bare-faced hypocrisy" for condemning Sinn Fein while sitting in government with them. The DUP motion was defeated by 52 votes to 26.

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