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Friday, 19 October, 2001, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Still time for progress says Reid
Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid has said trust must be built on all sides to overcome the current crisis in the deadlocked political process.

Dr Reid met Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen in Dublin on Friday to consider their next move to try to prevent the total collapse of the process.

They met following the resignation of five unionist ministers from the Northern Ireland Executive on Thursday.

The latest crisis has been brought about by the absence of decommissioning of IRA arms.

The resignations went ahead despite wide-spread speculation that the IRA was considering a move over the arms issue.

Speaking after the meeting, Dr Reid said there had been "a faltering but substantial start" in the transformation of Northern Ireland society through the Good Friday Agreement.

Northern Ireland secretary
John Reid: Tough decisions to make
He said the only way progress would be ensured would be to manage the political process so that "both sides feel confident".

"That means movement on the issue of arms by all the paramilitary groups and maintaining the stability of the institutions. Everyone knows what we have to do," he said.

Asked if he had any information if a move by the IRA on arms was imminent, Dr Reid said he did not.

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Dr Reid said the two governments believed the problems could be resolved but they did not underestimate the challenge.

Brian Cowen has said there needed to be urgent progress in implementing the proposals agreed during the Weston Park negotiations in July, in particular, in putting arms beyond use.

The UK Government must decide within the next seven days how to react to the latest crisis in the political process.

The two governments are to stay in contact over weekend. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Premier Bertie Ahern met to discuss the situation on the fringes of an EU summit in Belgium on Friday.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "Both expressed the hope that we could continue to move towards implementing the Good Friday Agreement."

Gerry Adams dismissed IRA convention speculation
Gerry Adams dismissed IRA convention speculation
Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has held a three-hour meeting with his party executive at their headquarters in Belfast to discuss the latest developments after the withdrawal of the three UUP ministers and two Democratic Unionist Party ministers on Thursday.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble's party led the resignations.

Mr Trimble said his party could no longer sit in the powersharing executive with Sinn Fein without decommissioning.

Window of opportunity

Under assembly rules, there are seven days in which the UUP leader could prevent the collapse of the powersharing arrangement and a return to direct rule by deciding to re-nominate his ministers.

David Trimble has said that will depend on the IRA putting its weapons beyond use in a verifiable and meaningful way.

He resigned as Northern Ireland first minister in July to put pressure on the republican movement to get rid of weapons.

If devolution is suspended for an unlimited period, it is likely the government will start a review of the implementation of the Agreement.

David Trimble is demanding credible start to IRA arms decommissioning
David Trimble is demanding credible start to IRA arms decommissioning

On Friday, hardline Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson warned that a one-off decommissioning gesture by the IRA would not be enough to guarantee the future of any powersharing government.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams described speculation an IRA convention may held this weekend as "Alice in Wonderland journalism".

Mr Adams said he would continue to be involved in intensive discussions with the two governments and the parties in an attempt to save the institutions.

SDLP agriculture minister Brid Rodgers called on the two governments to safeguard the political institutions.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid:
"We do not underestimate the challenge, but we believe this situation can be resolved"

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough


Loyalist ceasefire





See also:

17 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Significant IRA move said to be possible
18 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Q&A: Assembly crisis
15 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
'Rethink' NI Executive withdrawal
13 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Political process in crisis
13 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble urges move on IRA ceasefire
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