::: u.tv :::

**Just as an aside--u.tv has to be one of the most garish and annoying sites on the net :P

SF demand to DUP on talks

Mitchel McLaughlin

TUESDAY 28/09/2004 11:51:57

Democratic Unionist leader the Reverend Ian Paisley faced new demands today to engage in face-to-face talks with Sinn Fein.
By:Press Association

As Northern Ireland`s politicians turned their attention to Prime Minister Tony Blair`s speech at the Labour Party conference, Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin welcomed plans for the DUP leader to meet Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Dublin on Thursday.

Echoing a call from Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble at the Brighton conference for a DUP and Sinn Fein meeting, the Foyle MLA said: "In the wake of the Assembly election last year the DUP promised a new, more confident brand of unionism.

"So far we have seen little evidence of this new-found confidence. The DUP are continuing to refuse to engage with Sinn Fein directly.

"If we have learnt anything from the development of this peace process over the past 10 years, it is that dialogue is the key to resolving problems and moving forward.

"Therefore I welcome the news that Ian Paisley is to lead a DUP delegation to Dublin to engage in talks with the Taoiseach and the Irish government."

DUP sources said last night that the meeting with Mr Ahern would focus on the work of a future Stormont Executive with the Irish government through the North South Ministerial Council and the British Irish Council.

A row with nationalists over future power-sharing structures and cross-border arrangements has thwarted a return to devolution.

It has also resulted in the IRA holding back on a statement which Mr Blair and Mr Ahern and their officials believe could break the deadlock on the issues of disarmament and end all paramilitary activity.

Mr Ahern has met the Rev Paisley before in Dublin in the DUP leader`s capacity as Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church.

However, it will be the first time they have met in Dublin for political talks.

At an Ulster Unionist fringe event at the Labour conference last night, Mr Trimble urged the DUP to go into direct talks with republicans to see if the IRA`s offer to the two Governments was genuine.

He told an audience which included Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy: "The DUP should test the word of republicans, and to do that it has to sit down face to face and get them to be crystal clear on what they plan to do.

"It will be the best thing to do for the whole community in Northern Ireland. We need to know what is going on with the IRA."

Mr McLaughlin said today that, by arranging a meeting in Dublin with the Irish Taoiseach, the DUP was sending out the message that it was engaging with people it had refused to talk to in the past.

However, he insisted this also needed to be extended to Sinn Fein.

"Sinn Fein are the largest nationalist party," he argued.
"If the DUP are to ever share power then they will have to share power with Sinn Fein.

"It is now time for the DUP to demonstrate to the nationalist community that they are capable of respecting electoral mandates and engaging constructively with political opponents.

"The time has now come to engage in face-to-face dialogue with Sinn Fein."

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