Letter: Success for Northern Ireland talks

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The Independent Online
Sir: David McKittrick ("Virtual Talks on Northern Ireland", 4 December) refers to a small subscription on-line forum on CompuServe, in which I moderate a discussion on Northern Ireland. The piece states that members of this Forum "will this weekend discuss ways of keeping a republican sympathiser out of their proceedings".

There has been no suggestion of keeping any member out of our discussions because of their political views, and I could not remain part of any forum were such a policy to be adopted.

This on-line forum, in which members participate in their spare time, is one of the more rewarding things I have done. It has brought together a large group of people, of every shade of opinion, and from all parts of the world, to debate Irish issues. I was elected moderator by the membership and try to do so with independence. I have seen positions modified, opposing views understood, and lasting friendships develop across the traditional "divide".

Our meeting on Sunday really stems from the forum's success. Members have expressed a desire to make further progress (where have I heard that before?), and I have asked them whether they want to adopt a basic platform on which future discussions might be based. I have had suggestions about different ways of doing this, and have presented them to the participants as options. One of those options is to adopt, as a starting point for our discussions, the Mitchell six principles.

I suppose the worst thing about David McKittrick's piece is that it has made me empathise with the politicians locked up inside Stormont who are engaged in the real talks. I don't suppose it will last long though.


London EC1