7.9.04

BBC

Ingredients of deal 'in place'

The ingredients for a political settlement in Northern Ireland are in place, the DUP deputy leader, Peter Robinson, has said.

Mr Robinson made the comment during an address to the annual conference of the Irish Small Firms Association in Dublin on Tuesday.

He said those who believed the DUP's victory in last November's assembly election damaged the prospects for a settlement had made a fundamental miscalculation.

His comments come during a week of intense activity aimed at generating movement in the Northern Ireland political situation.

The East Belfast MP challenged Gerry Adams to call unionists' bluff by destroying the IRA's guns and ending its terror campaign.

He said unionists would "apply the brake" if they believed cross border activity was politically motivated.

However, he said the DUP would drive co-operation forward with enthusiasm and vigour if they decided it is intended to provide shared practical advantages.

On Monday, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said that the Good Friday Agreement was in "considerable difficulty".

He was speaking in London ahead of talks with British and Irish government officials.

Mr Adams said that the DUP had been honest that they wanted to destroy the Good Friday Agreement.

The talks were in preparation for negotiations due to take place at Leeds Castle in Kent next week, aimed at breaking the deadlock in the Northern Ireland political process.

Proposals

Mr Robinson is due to hold talks with senior government officials in London on Wednesday.

The week will also see discussions at Stormont involving Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy and Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen.

The Ulster Unionists are expected to unveil proposals for the assembly to be given a role in the short term in scrutinising direct rule ministers.

The week's activity should culminate in Tony Blair's Sedgefield constituency on Friday when the prime minister will meet Irish premier Bertie Ahern to assess the chances of progress at the Leeds Castle talks.

The political institutions in Northern Ireland were suspended in October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at the Northern Ireland Office.

The DUP and Sinn Fein have maintained high-level contacts with both governments over the summer.


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