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Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 19:42 GMT
Stormont talks 'robust and useful'
Paul Murphy and Brian Cowen
Paul Murphy and Brian Cowen are chairing talks
Multi-party talks at Stormont aimed at restoring devolution have been described as "robust and useful".

Northern Ireland's political institutions were suspended on 14 October following a row over allegations of IRA activity, including intelligence gathering at Stormont.

The discussions , which included all the pro-Agreement parties were hosted by the Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy and Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Murphy said they will be asking all the parties to meet each other and the two governments over the next two weeks

UUP leader David Trimble
David Trimble missed the Stormont talks
"At the end of that we will have another meeting such as this," he said.

"That coincides in the same week with the meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

"Then we will be looking at the next meeting as to where we go from here."

One of the key figures, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, who was Northern Ireland's first minister, has again stayed away from the talks because he has other business in London.

He was also missing from the first round of the talks last week.

Judgement time

Mr Trimble sent former Stormont ministers Sir Reg Empey and Michael McGimpsey to represent the Ulster Unionists.

Speaking afterwards Sir Reg hinted that unionists would review their participation in the current round of talks at some stage to see if they were progressing.

"We will have to make a judgment as time goes on," he said.

"Would we indefinitely come to a process which is clearly not going somewhere?

The Democratic Unionist Party stayed away from the talks because it wants a total renegotiation of the Agreement.

But the anti-Agreement UK Unionist leader, Robert McCartney went to the talks because he wanted to challenge "concessions to terrorists".

He insisted he had not entered the talks "to negotiate with anyone".

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams said the government must "knuckle down"
SDLP leader Mark Durkan questioned what Mr McCartney's party could contribute to the talks.

"What I want to make sure is that the pro-Agreement parties that are there are able together to agree and work a sensible agenda that is based on an Agreement," he said.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the government has to "knuckle down".

"We need them actually to come forward with a timeframe, plans and programmes to actually bring that about," he said.

"Thus far they have not done that."

Following the collapse of power-sharing at Stormont, current legislation dictates that the British and Irish Governments must review the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement on which devolution was based.

But unless some common ground can be found between the parties on how to proceed, there is no mechanism for reinstating Northern Ireland's power-sharing executive.

Both the governments have stressed that there will be no re-negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI political correspondent Martina Purdy reports
"A wide-ranging agenda has been drawn up for the talks, but a key issue remains how to restore confidence in power-sharing"
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams:
"It's unfortunate and unhelpful that Mr Trimble isn't there"
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:

20 Nov 02 | N Ireland
19 Nov 02 | N Ireland
15 Oct 02 | N Ireland
21 Nov 02 | N Ireland
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