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Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 17:46 GMT
NI ministers brief Blair in London
David Trimbel and Mark Durkan
David Trimble and Mark Durkan said the meeting had gone well
The joint leaders of Northern Ireland's power-sharing government have met Prime Minister Tony Blair for talks in Downing Street.

Stormont First Minister David Trimble and Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan held the first in a series of joint meetings with Mr Blair on Thursday over issues affecting the devolved government.

A spokesman for the multi-party executive confirmed the Ulster Unionist leader and the nationalist SDLP leader discussed a "range of issues" with the prime minister.

The meeting is believed to be the first in a series between Mr Trimble, Mr Durkan and the prime minister.

Martin McGuinness is also to meet Blair
Martin McGuinness is also to meet Blair

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and party colleague Martin McGuinness also met Mr Blair on Thursday.

It is understood the issues of policing and security force collusion with loyalist paramilitaries were raised with Mr Blair.

Sinn Fein is the only one of the four main parties in the province which has refused to take up its seats on the new Policing Board, as it does not endorse police reforms.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Adams said the murder of former UDA quarter master and special branch agent William Stobie and the Police Ombudsmans' report into the Omagh bombing had brought an "added urgency" to the discussions.

Meanwhile, Mr Trimble and Mr Durkan are expected to meet with the Irish Foreign Minister, Brian Cowen, in Dublin next week to discuss North-South aspects of the Good Friday Agreement.

The meetings were held against a backdrop of increasing stability in the devolved assembly, since Mr Blair was last closely involved in developments before his focus turned towards the war in Afghanistan.

Tony Blair to get progress report on ministers
Tony Blair to get progress report on devolved government
Mr Trimble had resigned as Northern Ireland's first minister in July to put pressure on republicans on the disarmament issue.

He placed a ban on Sinn Fein ministers attending the North-South Ministeral Council and then pulled his ministers out of the executive.

But after the IRA's October move on decommissioning, Mr Trimble agreed to stand for re-election with Mr Durkan - then finance minister - as deputy first minister.

The two men were narrowly elected against opposition from anti-Agreement unionists and Mr Trimble lifted the Ulster Unionist sanctions on Sinn Fein.

Last week the executive published its latest programme for government, in which investment in the health service, education and regional development were key planks.

Increasing common ground between the parties on the transition from the Royal Ulster Constabulary to the new Police Service of Northern Ireland, started in November, has also added to a sense of stability.

On Wednesday the Policing Board, which includes members of the UUP, DUP and SDLP, agreed unanimously on a new badge for the service - an issue which had previously caused political controversy.

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough


Loyalist ceasefire





See also:

07 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Governments welcome Trimble election
12 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Board agrees on NI police badge
07 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Health crisis focuses political minds
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