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Last Updated: Friday, 13 October 2006, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK
Party denies blog rule-breaking
One of the Northern Ireland parties involved in top level political talks in Scotland has had its wrists slapped - for blogging.

The Ulster Unionists have been logging their web account from inside the talks venue at St Andrews.

Blogs screenshot
The Ulster Unionist Party has joined in the growing number of blogs
The government says the move goes against the spirit of confidentiality of the talks.

But the party says it is simply a hi-tech way of keeping voters informed.

Party spokesman Alex Benjamin denied it was breaching any confidentiality rules, but offered web users a "chink of light" as to what the talks are actually about.

"These summits cost taxpayers, and this one in particular up to about 500,000," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

"We thought it was time that people should have a chance to see what is actually happening inside.

"We haven't actually broken any confidentiality in terms of posting the real political goings on, or private conversations between politicians or parties, but we wanted to give people a flavour of what actually happens at these things, give people a sense of what's happening minute by minute."

Sir Reg Empey
The blog has been written by Sir Reg Empey

The blog is written and signed by Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey, for what the party says is a new internet audience.

Mr Benjamin explained that they wanted to demystify the "air of unreality" often associated with such talks.

He outlined an incident during one of the sessions of intense negotiations at Castle Buildings, Stormont.

"I remember walking past a News 24 journalist who was doing a piece to camera, saying the UUP and Sinn Fein were locked in intense negotiations. I walked back into the room and our guys were all sitting round a TV watching Wimbledon," he said.

"So, there is an element amongst the media of building these things up as well. Because they don't have anything else to really go on, there's a sense of 'we have to to create something' and create this hothouse environment.

"In reality, it's very rarely a hothouse environment. There's a lot of time spent sitting around, a lot of time spent having coffee or watching television, so it's not quite the perception that people think it is."

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