BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: N Ireland  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Friday, 14 June, 2002, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
NI troubles dominate summit
Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair
Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair met at airport
The state of the Northern Ireland peace process and reports about alleged IRA activities in Colombia are set to dominate a meeting of the British-Irish Council (BIC) on Friday.

Senior politicians from the UK, including Prime Minister Tony Blair and NI First Minister David Trimble, have gathered in Jersey for the event. Irish premier Bertie Ahern is also attending.

Mr Blair and Mr Ahern went into a private room at the airport to meet ahead of moving on to the summit.

The prime minister also had talks with David Trimble who went to the airport to meet him.

NI First Minister David Trimble
David Trimble had talks with Tony Blair

A security assessment, shown to the BBC, which said the IRA was involved in developing new weapons in Colombia is thought to have been discussed.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Blair said the peace process was "best guarantor of an end to paramilitary activity".

He said there was "no acceptable level of paramilitary violence".

"That peace process represents the process of transition for certain parties from violence to democracy, but that transition has got to be completed.

"There is not a halfway house for democracy."

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, who is also attending the summit, criticised the BBC for using "anonymous security sources".

"I am absolutely dismayed that the BBC thinks it is sensible, at a critical time in our peace process, to be running unattributable, mischievous reports from elements within the British military establishment," he said.

The BIC meeting is taking place against the backdrop of an upsurge of sectarian violence in Belfast over the last few weeks.

A woman suffered shrapnel injuries when a blast bomb device exploded during disturbances in the Short Strand area on Thursday night.

Police fired a number of plastic baton rounds as rival crowds of Catholics and Protestants clashed.

Sinn Fein MP Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness criticised BBC over claims
Bertie Ahern said he talked to Mr Blair about how to eliminate the community tensions.

"Whoever is behind any of the various community violence anywhere, whether it is republican or loyalist, we are determined to try to do all we can to de-escalate that," he said.

Talks arena

The BIC was set up as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

It brings together representatives of the Republic of Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

The aim is to discuss issues affecting the whole of the British Isles.

Friday's meeting provides an arena for politicians from both sides of the Irish border to consider the disclosure about IRA activities in Colombia.

Security sources in Belfast revealed they believe IRA activities in Colombia had been sanctioned by two senior members of its army council.

IRA leaders have repeatedly denied authorising any action in the south American country.

Prime Minister Tony Blair:
"There can be no acceptable level of paramilitary activity"
Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble
"It puts a very serious question mark above the intentions of the republican movement"
BBC NI's political editor Mark Devenport:
"Although the formal agenda is economic Colombia is likely to dominate discussions"
See also:

14 Jun 02 | N Ireland
13 Jun 02 | N Ireland
30 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more N Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more N Ireland stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |