Mandelson tells Unionists to break log-jam

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The Independent Online

Peter Mandelson declared yesterday that Northern Ireland was on the brink of an "unbreakable peace" if Ulster Unionists agreed to join a power-sharing executive. In a clear plea to David Trimble, the party's leader, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland suggested that arms decommissioning "can and will" follow the creation of the devolved body.

Peter Mandelson declared yesterday that Northern Ireland was on the brink of an "unbreakable peace" if Ulster Unionists agreed to join a power-sharing executive. In a clear plea to David Trimble, the party's leader, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland suggested that arms decommissioning "can and will" follow the creation of the devolved body.

Addressing the annual City luncheon of the Ireland Fund of Great Britain, Mr Mandelson made clear that the setting up of the executive was the key to breaking the "log-jam" in the peace process.

His optimism came as Mitchel McLaughlin, Sinn Fein's chairman, said he believed that the former US senator George Mitchell was "very close" to making a judgement on the Good Friday Agreement review talks held at Stormont.

Mr Mandelson told the lunch in London that he had been greatly encouraged by the progress of talks over the past few weeks. He said that he hoped the recent atmosphere of trust between Unionists and republicans should be repeated in an inclusive, locally elected executive.

However, Mr Mandelson stressed that "full implementation" of the Good Friday Agreement was the only way to achieve a lasting peace and called on all parties to keep their nerve. "The peace process is at a crucial stage. I believe now that we have it within our grasp to map out the series of steps and changes capable of achieving an unbreakable peace," he said.

"We need to remove the log-jam that has stopped the implementation of the agreement for the past 18 months and move ahead on all fronts. To do that, we need to set up the executive on which all sides are represented, as set out in the agreement. When that happens, everything can, and will, follow."

Mr Mandelson also said the agreement could only succeed if the IRA proved that it was "fully committed" to the search for peace. "We can do it, but now is the time to show we can do it," he said. "Peace in Northern Ireland is not going to be made by means of smoke and mirrors or any spin-doctoring device. It is going to be made by local politicians - Unionists, nationalists and republicans."

Mr Mandelson was generous in his praise for Mr Trimble and Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, but warned they must turn hope into reality. "It is the key to Northern Ireland's future ... If they blow it ... it will instead be a missed opportunity that will threaten the lives of many for a generation."

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