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Friday, April 2, 1999 Published at 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK


Mowlam: No going back to violence

Mowlam: Good progress was made in last week's talks

Mo Mowlam has said there is no going back in the Northern Ireland peace process - despite the anniversary of the Good Friday accord passing without the hoped-for breakthrough over terrorists' weapons.

The Search for Peace
The Northern Ireland Secretary said "good progress" had been made in marathon talks over the last week.

On Thursday, talks were suspended without agreement, but all the parties signed up to a declaration which UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said would form the basis for a settlement.

Mo Mowlam: "It's now time to move on, the road is clear and we should move down it"
All sides now have nine days to decide their response to the proposals, which call for an early gesture on decommissioning and the setting up of the executive.

The declaration came after one of the most critical weeks for the peace process, amid fears that the Good Friday Agreement was on the brink of collapsing over the arms impasse.

Unionists are demanding that the IRA begins decommissioning before Sinn Fein can take up seats in the Assembly executive.

In turn, republicans say they cannot compel the IRA to disarm - and to try to do so could force a dangerous split in the movement.

'Everyone worked hard'

But Dr Mowlam said: "I think we have come a long, long way. This week we made a lot of progress, the parties worked very hard."

She added that "important steps were made", because of the actions of all the parties during the Hillsborough Castle sessions.

"I think if they continue that collective responsibility we will continue to make progress.

Denis Murray reports: "A very important week in the peace process"
"I now think it is time to move on, the road is clear and we should move down it," said Dr Mowlam.

But critics have condemned the declaration as a fudge.

Committed to peace

Jeffrey Donaldson, Lagan Valley MP and a member of David Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party, branded it "extremely woolly".

He said it was full of "imprecise language" and added: "I think we will have to look at this in a lot more detail before coming to a conclusion."

Dr Mowlam denied she felt bad about having failed to meet the deadline set for initiating the devolutionary process.

[ image: The marchers spanned the sectarian divide]
The marchers spanned the sectarian divide
Meeting the deadline would have forced the process forward - the declaration produced the same outcome, but with the support of the parties, she said.

"You can force along things if you want to, but I don't think that is the way forward.

"People have got to be there with their parties around them being sure that they are happy, then it has the stability and degree of trust," she said.

Among the Northern Ireland populace, the Good Friday anniversary was marked with cross-community marches through Belfast.

Several hundred Catholics and Protestants made a symbolic march from St Peter's Catholic Cathedral near the Falls Road to St Anne's Church of Ireland Cathedral in the city centre.

Another peace walk took place near the city's Ormeau bridge, the flashpoint where Orange Order parades have been stopped from marching through nationalist areas.

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Northern Ireland

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