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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Taoiseach meeting UDA leadership
Irish leader Bertie Ahern
Bertie Ahern is due to meet the UDA leadership in Dublin
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern is meeting the leadership of the Ulster Defence Association.

Members of the loyalist group's so-called inner council are part of a delegation which is being briefed on efforts to restore the assembly.

Thursday's meeting in Dublin comes amid growing pressure on loyalists to move away from violence towards social and economic initiatives.

A spokesman for Mr Ahern said he saw the talks as "positive and hopeful".

BBC Northern Ireland home affairs correspondent Vincent Kearney said the talks had originally been billed as being between Mr Ahern and the Ulster Political Research Group, which provides political analysis to the UDA.

However, it is now expected that up to four of the UDA's so-called brigadiers and a number of other senior figures within the organisation will attend the talks at Castle Buildings.

"They will meet Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Irish Foreign Affairs minister Dermot Ahern and senior government officials," Mr Kearney said.

"Irish government sources say they will brief the delegation on the initiative to restore devolution - and will also discuss loyalist concerns about the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.

"The UDA representatives are expected to warn that talk of increased co-operation between the British and Irish governments in the affairs of Northern Ireland if the Stormont Assembly is not restored by 24 November is causing alarm in loyalist circles."

It is understood that similar concerns were expressed at a meeting between the loyalist delegation and Secretary of State Peter Hain at Stormont on Monday night.




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