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The BBC's Denis Murray
"Negotiations will take place in a new and unexpected political landscape"
 real 56k

NI Secretary of State John Reid:
"I think there are a number of lessons we can draw from the election"
 real 28k

Saturday, 9 June, 2001, 18:23 GMT 19:23 UK
Reid urges new talks
Secretary of State John Reid
Dr John Reid re-appointed as NI Secretary of State
Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid is urging politicians in the province to step up efforts to cement the peace process.

Dr Reid said he will contact all of the main parties in the next few days to arrange fresh political talks.

Discussions on the deep disagreement between the parties on the issues of paramilitary decommissioning, policing and demilitarisation were suspended during the election campaign.

The Ulster Unionists have been pushing for IRA disarmament and Sinn Fein and the SDLP have refused to endorse the new Police Service of Northern Ireland.


It is clear that there is concern among sections of the community to see that all aspects of the Agreement, are implemented

Dr John Reid

The DUP, which has not been party to the talks, wants Sinn Fein to be removed from the assembly executive if the IRA does not hand over its weapons.

Dr Reid said the election results had sent a message to the province's politicians that they must ensure the Good Friday Agreement is fully implemented.

Speaking at Hillsborough Castle on Saturday, he said the voters had made their feelings clear.

"There are a couple of lessons that we can draw right away," he said.

"The first is that there is enduring commitment to aspects of the Good Friday Agreement, including in particular the Northern Ireland Assembly and the fact that politicians are working together.

"But it is equally clear that there is concern among sections of the community to see that all aspects of that Agreement, which was overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of Northern Ireland, are implemented as fully and as swiftly as possible."

Dr Reid said he thought that message should cause all politicians in Northern Ireland, including himself, to "redouble our efforts to make sure that there is swift and full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in all of it dimensions".

'New agreement needed'

However, on Saturday one of the DUP's new MPs, Gregory Campbell said the party's wins over the Ulster Unionists showed it was the new voice of unionism.

Gregory Campbell:
Gregory Campbell: "We are the new voice of unionism"
He said: "This should be a signal to David Trimble, to John Reid and to Tony Blair that there is a clear message coming out from the unionist community.

"We want an agreement, but we want one which we can have confidence in, because we don't have confidence in this one."

After being elected on Friday the DUP leader Ian Paisley said Prime Minister Tony Blair would be a "fascist" if he tried to exclude his party from the negotiations later this month.

'Not extremists'

However, Sinn Fein chairman Mitchell McLaughlin said his party would be going into negotiations confident that an overwhelming majority of people supported the Good Friday Agreement.

Gerry Adams:
Gerry Adams: "DUP gains may make progress more difficult"
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster he said: "The electors had a choice. They had an opportunity and they chose by 78% those who argued a pro-Agreement position, whether they were republicans, nationalists or unionists."

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, who won a huge majority in West Belfast, said it would be wrong to view Sinn Fein and DUP gains as a victory for extremists, but admitted the negotiations that will follow have been made tougher.

"It may be more difficult to compromise because the competition within unionism has got to such a pitch that David Trimble may use his great skill of using his weakness to his advantage.

"He may feel that he can get a British government to deliver in his direction because of the threat to him. But that would be a huge mistake for Mr Blair."

He added: "Mr Blair and the Taoiseach have a challenge in terms of the policing issue, in terms of demilitarisation and min terms of unlocking the door so that other issues like weapons and so on can be resolved.

'Majority support'

Mr Trimble, the Northern Ireland first minister and Ulster Unionist leader said his party had "weathered the storm" of the general election despite losing three seats to the anti-Agreement DUP.

He also said the results proved that a majority of people still supported the agreement.

"The Agreement changed the political landscape completely - that is indisputable," he said.

"In the assembly election that followed, the Ulster Unionist Party got 21.7% of the vote. On this occasion we increased that to 26.8%."

The SDLP's defeated north Belfast candidate Alban Maginness said his party had accepted that they did badly in the general election.

But he said that would not deflect them from the work that had to be done to resolve issues outstanding in the Agreement including policing and decommissioning.

"We're not going to roll over and die. We are still a very strong party," he said.

"I recognise that Sinn Fein did well, but if you look at our vote, it has remained stable. It is solid and wrong. We have work to do and we have to continue to do that work."

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See also:

09 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Reid retains NI post
09 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
'Progress' in NI peace talks
28 Feb 01 | Key People
John Reid: Northern Ireland
25 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
John Reid: A tough brief for a tough guy?
24 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
John Reid appointed NI secretary
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