Bruton is first to call at No 10

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The Independent Online
John Bruton, the Irish Prime Minister, will be the first leader to meet Tony Blair at Downing Street since his election as Prime Minister. Their meeting on Thursday will take stock of the British elections and the chances for resuming the search for peace in Northern Ireland.

The meeting at Downing Street is not being billed as a full summit, but as a "courtesy call" by the Irish premier, who is to address the Oxford Union tomorrow. He will be accompanied by Dick Spring, Foreign Minister, and the Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam, also will be at Number Ten.

The talks will cover the election of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein in the Province, but both sides will reaffirm their stand that there can be no entry to the peace talks for Sinn Fein until the IRA declare a full and permanent peace. The meeting will review prospects for the revived peace talks in Northern Ireland, due to begin again on 3 June, but there are also local elections in Northern Ireland on 22 May, in which Sinn Fein is expected to make a strong showing.

Mr Bruton said last night: "I am very much looking forward to it [the meeting with Mr Blair], as I believe we can develop many new possibilities for co-operation in regard to Northern Ireland, bilaterally and within Europe. "Work within each of these areas is mutually reinforcing."

Mr Bruton added: "Co-operation in relation to Northern Ireland should, I believe, have the utmost priority for both governments." He welcomed a statement by Ms Mowlam stressing that "future arrangements for the government of Northern Ireland should attract the support of all parts of the community."

Mr Bruton described that assertion as "an important recognition of the need for nationalist as well as unionist consent. "It emphasises the central task of the talks process, which we commenced on June 10 last year, and which resumes of June 3."