DUP move over battalions

Future of the Royal Irish Regiment is under spotlight

The Democratic Unionist Party is launching a new drive to save the home battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment.

The move comes in tandem with talks on the latest British-Irish proposals aimed at restoring devolution.

Meanwhile, both DUP and Sinn Fein sources have confirmed that a proposed £1bn peace fund is being discussed as part of the negotiations.

The parties are under pressure from the governments to accept their proposals which are also aimed at ending IRA activity for good.

DUP politicians have previously raised concerns about plans to disband the three home battalions of the RIR.

DUP sources have told the BBC they are concerned about what they believe could be an "imminent move" to remove more security installations along the Irish border.

The party wants to make the case that retaining the home battalions of the RIR makes both military and economic sense.

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said: "The timing of this initiative is especially interesting, as the DUP leader, Ian Paisley, will meet Defence Minister, Geoff Hoon, on Wednesday, the same day he is due to be talking to Tony Blair about an overall political deal."

The SDLP's Alex Attwood said if the British Government "undoes the decision to end the RIR" it would "send out the wrong signal".

"This is not what our politics needs, what the security situation requires or what the future should look like," he said.

He said if the future of the RIR was secured, it would be another example of the DUP "getting more and giving less".

Meanwhile, the British and Irish prime ministers are to meet for talks in Downing Street on Wednesday to assess the prospects of the DUP and Sinn Fein endorsing their proposals.

The plans, given to the parties last week, followed two months of continuing negotiations aimed at exploring a way around the stumbling blocks faced at September's talks at Leeds Castle in Kent.

Both the DUP and Sinn Fein are backing the creation of a £1bn peace fund as the price tag for any deal - about one ninth of Northern Ireland's annual budget.

The SDLP leader, Mark Durkan, will raise his concerns about the latest British and Irish proposals with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern on Monday.

Both Mr Durkan and Ulster Unionist leader Mr Trimble are expected to see Tony Blair this week.

As the negotiations on a deal continue, all the parties remain mindful of the Westminster election due next year.

The BBC has been told senior Ulster Unionists recently approached the Alliance Party asking them to stand aside in constituencies such as East Antrim and East Belfast but the approach was rebuffed.

The British and Irish Governments want an answer from Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams by the end of the month.

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy has said he is hopeful the parties will accept the governments' blueprint.

Bertie Ahern said on Saturday he believed there was a very real prospect of the whole island of Ireland having an historic and peaceful Christmas.

Earlier on Saturday, both Sinn Fein and the DUP held meetings with party members.

The DUP assembly team are drawing up their own detailed analysis of the outstanding issues. The DUP's executive will meet next Friday night.

The DUP wants to know the IRA is committed to the proposals outlined by the government. Sinn Fein is demanding the proposals reflect more fully the Good Friday Agreement.

After two years of stalemate, Stormont remains suspended, but signs are emerging that it could be back in business within months.

At the conclusion of intensive political talks at Leeds Castle in Kent in September, Mr Blair and Mr Ahern said the thorny issues of IRA disarmament and future paramilitary activity appeared to be resolved.

But, 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.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?