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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Blair to speak on NI crisis
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair will make a major speech on NI process
Prime Minister Tony Blair is in Northern Ireland to make a speech about the latest crisis in the peace process.

Earlier on Thursday, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said the complete implementation of the Good Friday Agreement would put huge pressure on all armed groups in Northern Ireland to disband.

The complete implementation of the Good Friday Agreement would put huge pressure on all armed groups in Northern Ireland to disband, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has said.

Mr McGuinness, who was explaining his party's proposals for finding a way out of the political impasse, said it was "highly unlikely" that paramilitaries would disarm under the current terms set by unionists.

Unionist politicians have led calls for the IRA to disband amid further crisis in the political process.

Northern Ireland's power-sharing executive was suspended for the fourth time at midnight on Monday following allegations of IRA intelligence gathering in the Northern Ireland Office.

Four people have been charged over the claims.

Martin McGuinness: Sinn Fein
Martin McGuinness:"Highly unlikely" paramilitaries will disarm under unionist terms.

Speaking in Belfast on Thursday, the former education minister said implementing reforms on issues such as policing, justice and demilitarisation, would pose a huge challenge to all armed groups about their continued existence.

"The key to it is to ensure that the agreement is implemented in full," he said.

"The challenge that we then pose to all our armed groups within this society is an absolutely mighty one."

"Can we do that to the agenda being set by those who are opposed to the agreement and on the time scale they are demanding? I think it is highly unlikely."

On Wednesday, Mr Blair said every effort must be made to put the Good Friday Agreement "back together again".

Talks

Tony Blair told the Commons on Wednesday that "we have reached the crunch point - where people have got to decide whether they are committed to exclusively peaceful means or not".

Mr Blair also met a Democratic Unionist Party delegation who are pressing for a renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement and fresh assembly elections.

Following the talks, DUP leader Ian Paisley said: "It is the onus and duty on the prime minister of this country to see that no terrorist organisation gets into the heart of government of any part of this United Kingdom. That is the issue.

"At the moment he has not been prepared to face up to the IRA, he has backed off from facing up to them."

Other talks are expected to take place behind the scene between politicians and officials in an attempt to restore confidence in the political process.

On Tuesday, the Northern Ireland Secretary, John Reid said the suspension of the assembly would create "a breathing space" that will allow the peace process to move forward.

Irish Premier Bertie Ahern said the republican movement needs to move more quickly from paramiltiarism to normal constitutional politics.

Earlier this month, the Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said his party would pull out of power sharing unless the UK Government proposed the expulsion of Sinn Fein from the Stormont administration.

Unionists demanded Sinn Fein's expulsion from government over allegations of IRA activity, including claims it was involved in training left-wing Colombian guerrillas and was behind a break-in at the police's Belfast headquarters in March.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness:
"The key is to make politics work"
Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis

Analysis

Background

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

15 Oct 02 | N Ireland
14 Oct 02 | N Ireland
14 Oct 02 | N Ireland
14 Oct 02 | N Ireland
12 Oct 02 | N Ireland
11 Oct 02 | N Ireland
11 Oct 02 | N Ireland
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