Arms agreement frees Stormont logjam

A rare instance of progress in the multi-party talks at Stormont yesterday led participants into their first substantive discussions on the issue of arms decommissioning, a move hailed as a modest breakthrough.

Although the talks have been under way since 10 June, the participants - the British and Irish governments and nine of Northern Ireland's 10 largest political groupings - had not previously reached agreement on rules and procedure.

The tenth party, Sinn Fein, is not in the talks. Seven of the nine parties signed up overnight to a compromise arrangement aimed at moving the talks on, though in the face of angry dissent from the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists and another Unionist party. These denounced David Trimble's Ulster Unionist party for allegedly sidelining the arms issue.

Much of the argument of recent months has centred on the question of when the controversial decommissioning issue should be addressed, with Mr Paisley and others insisting it should be at the top of the agenda. The arrangement put into operation yesterday meant a debate on decommissioning began after less than an hour spent in discussion of a draft agenda.

The Ulster Unionist Party spokesman, Reg Empey, said last night: "We were accused of degrading decommissioning and putting it on the back burner - nothing of the case. The first item was the circulation of draft agendas for the substantive talks. That took a total of 31 minutes, then at 3pm we commenced the decommissioning debate."

One important effect of the new arrangement is that it makes it easier for the loyalist fringe parties to stay at the table. This is seen as a helpful factor in persuading loyalist paramilitary groups not to end their ceasefire.

The modest movement in the talks has at least had the effect of relieving fears that they would run into the sands by the end of this month without any progress having been made. The formula arrived at seems to assure their continuation for some time to come, although most participants say that rapid progress is not to be expected.

Lord Alderdice, leader of the moderate Alliance Party, said: "The progress was very important but one shouldn't over-state what was achieved. What we have now got is an agreement about how we talk about the agenda and how we talk about decommissioning. That's a step forward but it's not the kind of dreadfully dangerous betrayal that the DUP have suggested, not at all."

He added that he believed this stage of the talks would last for a few weeks.

n The Apprentice Boys of Derry, one of the Protestant marching organisations, have applied for permission to walk on Londonderry's city walls this weekend.

In August a crisis was averted when the organisation postponed plans for a similar parade. The Bogside Residents Group yesterday called on the marchers to open talks with local Catholics on the plans. The group said that if they did there was a very strong likelihood of agreement on the issue.

Leading article, page 15

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits