Unionists agree to new deadline for settlement

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The Independent Online
THE POLITICAL parties in Northern Ireland were given a new deadline yesterday to reach a settlement for devolving powers to the province, writes Colin Brown.

John Major and Albert Reynolds, the Irish prime minister, agreed to continue the suspension in meetings of the Anglo-Irish conference until 16 November to enable the parties to reach agreement. The meeting in London was intended to demonstrate Mr Major's commitment to the Anglo- Irish agreement and his determination to maintain close contacts with Dublin, if the Ulster Unionists prevaricate.

The Ulster Unionists, who have shown some movement, including a readiness to talk with the Dublin government, had demanded an end to the claim to the province contained in the Irish constitution. They had also demanded a further adjournment in the Anglo-Irish conference.

But after yesterday's meeting, Mr Major said: 'The next inter-governmental conference will be held on 16 November. There will be no further extension.'

The decision to set a deadline was expected to anger Unionist leaders but they said later that the decision to hold the next meeting on 16 November gave a 'realistic period in which agreement may be reached'. Their statement continued: 'We have long advocated a more effective use of the time available and now have good reason to expect some progress in this direction.'