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Friday, 3 August, 2001, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Sinn Fein considers peace package
Martin McGuiness goes into the Sinn Fein meeting
Martin McGuiness goes into the Sinn Fein meeting
Sinn Fein and other parties in Northern Ireland are discussing thr British and Irish Governments proposals aimed at rescuing the Good Friday Agreement.

The republican party's executive is meeting in a hotel in Castle Bellingham in the Irish Republic, not far from the border with Northern Ireland.

The other pro-Agreement parties are holding separate meetings with Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid in Belfast.

The package was published on Wednesday, and the parties have been given until Monday to respond to it.

Man silhouetted in front of a fire on an Ealing street
The meetings come hours after a blast, blamed on the Real IRA, rocked west London

It covers all of the four outstanding issues threatening the political process - policing, normalisation, the stability of the institutions and disarmament.

The meetings come hours after a bomb, blamed on dissident republican group Real IRA, exploded in London injuring several people.

Although it has not admitted responsibility, the group, which is strongly opposed to the peace process, is the only one which has attacked Britain in recent years.

Sinn Fein has already hinted that it may find the "take it or leave it" package unacceptable.

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Going into the party's meeting on Friday morning, Newry and Mourne assembly member Conor Murphy criticised the demilitarisation element of the proposals.

Conor Murphy:
Conor Murphy: "My own constituents are not happy with demilitarisation proposals"
He said: "There are many aspects to the document. But at first glance I am not impressed by what I see on demilitarisation. It is not what was promised by the government three years ago."

Mr Murphy added that republicans in South Armagh were particularly critical of the proposal that the final decision on the dismantling of installations would rest with the RUC chief constable.

Weapons issue

The other pro-Agreement parties, particularly the Ulster Unionists, are waiting to hear what response the IRA gives to the proposals.

It is unlikely that it will respond with some kind of move on arms if Sinn Fein does not accept the package.

Sir Reg Empey:  Neither optimistic nor pessimistic about breakthrough
Sir Reg Empey: Warning on policing concessions
The document says giving up weapons is an "indispensable" part of the Agreement and must be resolved in a manner acceptable to the decommissioning body.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid is meeting an Ulster Unionist delegation as part of a briefing on the proposals.

The parties are expected to ask for clarification on different aspects of the document.

Dr Reid is also expected to show them the implementation plan for further changes to policing.

Before going in, Sir Reg Empey said his party would not make an immediate response to the proposals, but he warned against unnecessary changes to policing.

A lot of "stupidity'' had been talked about policing in recent weeks, he said, and he added that "talk of disbandment of the police reserve is nonsense".

The Alliance Party, SDLP and the Women's Coalition are also due to meet Dr Reid on Friday.

The latest crisis was brought to a head by the resignation of Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble as Northern Ireland first minister, because the IRA had not begun to disarm.

If the parties have not found a resolution by 12 August, the British Government will have to either suspend the assembly or call an assembly election.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has urged the parties to look at the proposals carefully.

The BBC's Denis Murray
"Both London and Dublin have asked for measured responses from the parties by Monday"
Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Andrew Mackay
"I hope there will be more caution now"

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough


Loyalist ceasefire





See also:

01 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Explosives found at airport
01 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Parties given NI blueprint
26 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Unionist MPs end peace plan support
31 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble: Arms issue key to future
02 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Bush backs NI political package
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