Trimble attacks DUP stance

Mr Trimble was speaking at a UUP fringe meeting

The suspicion that the DUP is not really serious about negotiations has only been reinforced by its conduct since the Leeds Castle talks, David Trimble has said.

The Ulster Unionist Party leader said the DUP had failed to engage with the governments and republicans "to probe the real value of the offer the IRA reputedly made at Leeds Castle".

Instead, it had "spent its time raising secondary issues to do with the operation of the assembly", he said.

The political parties and the British and Irish Governments held negotiations in September in an effort to conclude a deal which would see the restoration of the assembly.

However, they broke up without agreement.

Mr Trimble was speaking at a UUP fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth on Wednesday.

He said: "Everyone in Northern Ireland who seeks a reasonable political settlement has been encouraged recently by the comment from Peter Robinson that 'the fundamentals of the Belfast Agreement were consistent with the fundamentals that the DUP had put forward'.

"This is in marked contrast with the Peter Robinson of four years ago who was talking about 'doing everything possible to bring down the Belfast Agreement'. It is a pity that the shift did not come earlier, but slow learners are better than no-learners."

'Already delivering '

However, speaking at a DUP meeting at the conference Peter Robinson said ministerial accountability in a future devolved executive was not a secondary issue.

He said: "We will take no lectures from David Trimble - a failed negotiator - on how to conduct negotiations.

"On four occasions, his party rolled over to the demands of the IRA and put them into government complete with their vast arsenal of illegal weaponry.

"The Trimble legacy is one of weakness, failure and deceit. The DUP is united in its vision and purpose and as a result is already delivering for the people of Northern Ireland."

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

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Mr Ahern claimed at the conclusion of the Leeds Castle talks last month that the thorny issues of IRA disarmament and future paramilitary activity appeared to be resolved.

However, the two governments were unable to get the Northern Ireland Assembly parties to sign up to a deal over power-sharing after unionists and nationalists clashed over future devolved institutions.

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