Pressure mounts for Ulster deal

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Talks between Ulster Unionists and Sinn Fein resume at Stormont today in an effort to find agreement over devolution and decommissioning.

Talks between Ulster Unionists and Sinn Fein resume at Stormont today in an effort to find agreement over devolution and decommissioning.

The UUP MP Ken Maginnis said it was better to take as long as necessary to achieve a solid, workable deal rather than bring the Good Friday Agreement crashing down.

But Sinn Fein chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, has said a way forward must be found "sooner rather than later" in order to thwart rejectionist unionists and loyalist dissidents.

The Belfast peace accord has been stalled since April 1998 because the Ulster Unionists insist the IRA commits itself to giving up its arsenal before they will share power with Sinn Fein.

Former US Senator George Mitchell has been hosting talks aimed at overcoming the blockage for the past eight weeks. It is not known how much longer his review will last.

Intensive, secret talks stretched long into the nights last week but failed to provide a breakthrough although all sides have vowed to keep trying.

"Whatever we come up with has got to be real," said Mr Maginnis. "Unionists are determined it won't be a fudge or open to a whole series of different interpretations.

"But whatever time it takes to break new ground is worthwhile. To get it wrong would be to bring the whole process crumbling about our heads.

"There are still huge problems but it is better to take time than to rush it. Whatever we come up with now must be understood by everyone to mean the same thing."

Participants have remained extremely tight-lipped about the Castle Buildings discussions.

But it is thought a possible compromise could centre around some sort of formula with a number of steps for setting up an inclusive executive and a decommissioning timetable.

Precise timing of these two processes would have to be inter-locked in such a way that neither republicans nor unionists would feel they had been defeated or humiliated.

However, sources said progress at Stormont was being stymied by lack of flexibility on the republican side.

The discovery of a 23-year-old man's body by a woman passer-by at the side of a road in Co Armagh may have an effect on the peace talks.

It is understood the man had suffered lacerations to the upper body, but police were keeping an open mind on the cause of death. They said it was too early to state whether he was the victim of an attack or a hit-and-run driver. A post-mortem will be held later.

The body was discovered just after 9am but the RUC said it could have lain undiscovered for some hours.

They appealed for anyone who had driven along the road late last night or early this morning to contact them.

Comments