Arms agreement frees Stormont logjam
Wednesday 16 October 1996
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
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...