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The BBC's Denis Murray
"One of the big issues is policing"
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Friday, 13 July, 2001, 21:28 GMT 22:28 UK
PMs resume talks with NI parties
Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern
Mr Blair and Mr Ahern meet for a fourth day of talks
Talks aimed at breaking the political stalemate in Northern Ireland have resumed at Weston Park in Staffordshire.

The UK prime minister and the Irish taoiseach are chairing the negotiations with the pro-Agreement parties but the smaller loyalist parties, the Progressive Unionist Party and Ulster Democratic Party, are not attending.

The fourth day of the current round of talks has come against a background of serious rioting in Belfast, sparked by nationalist opposition to a Protestant Orange Order parade.

The RUC chief constable said police were looking at the possibility that the IRA may have been behind the violence at Ardoyne in north Belfast.

David Trimble
David Trimble: Raising concerns

As he arrived at the talks venue, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said he would be raising his concerns about "republican orchestration" of the rioting with the two governments and the republican leadership.

"What does this indicate with regard to a commitment to peaceable democracy that we see this violence - violence which appears to be used for political purposes," he said.

However, Sinn Fein's Bairbre de Brun denied the violence had been organised by republicans.

She accused the RUC of attacking those who were stewarding in north Belfast.

"When you attack stewards who are there keeping a situation in order, they are not in a position to maintain that order," she told reporters at Weston Park.

She also said it was up to unionists and the British Government to show a willingness to accept political change.

Meanwhile, speaking on his way into the talks, acting deputy first minister and deputy leader of the nationalist SDLP, Seamus Mallon, said it was decision time.

"I do hope that when we leave here it will be for the very last time in terms of these negotiations, whatever the venue."

The Northern Ireland political process has been stalled over the issues of IRA arms decommissioning, policing and British Army demilitarisation.

The current crisis was brought about by the resignation of David Trimble as the Northern Ireland first minister on 1 July.

He has refused to continue sitting in government with republicans until the IRA begins to decommission its weapons.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said he would not be going back to the talks at Weston Park in Staffordshire unless he thought there was "potential for progress".

The spokesman added that Mr Blair did not intend to spend his weekend at Weston.

Seamus Mallon
Mr Mallon: "I don't know what republicans will do"

Speaking earlier, Seamus Mallon, the deputy leader of the nationalist SDLP, said he did not know what republicans intended to do about the arms issue.

"There is no secrecy about the issues involved," he said.

"The reality is I do not think anybody knows what in effect the republican movement are going to do or what approach they are going to take to this," he said.

"Are they going to try and fudge it or long-finger it again? If that is the case I do not believe any of the political parties nor do I believe any of the two governments will wear it."

However, the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, has accused the acting deputy first minister of point scoring while refusing to engage with republicans during negotiations.

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams: Under pressure

"Mr Mallon has failed to attend any of the bilaterals between Sinn Fein and the SDLP at Weston Park Hall and indeed, before that," he said.

"He doesn't seem to realise that the elections are over.

"He needs to get real and stop being grumpy and he needs to fulfil his responsibility even in the acting capacity of deputy first minister."

On Wednesday, Mr Mallon said that progress was being made on the policing and demilitarisation issues but that republicans were giving nothing away on disarmament.

The Ulster Unionist Party has also expressed frustration at Sinn Fein.

Speaking as he left for the talks, Ulster Unionist Michael McGimpsey said a successful outcome depended on Sinn Fein.

"I think it's a matter of whether republicans are going to keep their word," he said.

"If they keep their word then we can go forward, if they don't then I fear that the institutions are likely to collapse."

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See also:

12 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
PMs hope for NI progress
12 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Breakthrough sought in talks process
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