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Thursday, 12 December, 2002, 07:54 GMT
PUP to raise concern over bodies
Stormont
Stormont assembly was suspended in October
The Progressive Unionist Party is to raise concerns with the Irish Government over legislation protecting the North-South bodies.

Party leader David Ervine is expected to hold talks with the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern in Dublin on Thursday.

Unionists are angry that the cross-border bodies, set up under the Good Friday Agreement, are being kept active despite the suspension of devolution.

David Ervine:
David Ervine: "Needs to be a choreography"

Mr Ervine said: "There needs to be a choreography when people do things to get the assembly back and running," he said.

"What they shouldn't do is give a whole process of benefits to the republican movement and expect that unionism will take ownership of the process after that point."

'Concerns remain'

He said there were a number of issues the PUP were upset about.

"We have seen legislation in Westminster and Dail Eireann... the legislation rather quietly and unfortunately put through the Dail is something we would fear would become permanent."

Meanwhile, an Ulster Unionist delegation has said concerns remain over cross-border bodies following a meeting with Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen in Dublin.

Speaking after the meeting on Wednesday night, Sir Reg Empey said matters of difference over legislation covering the bodies were not resolved

But Sir Reg said he was hopeful there was now a "greater understanding" of the party's position within the Irish Government.

UUP leader David Trimble
David Trimble could withdraw from talks
He said the source of difficulty was the form of the agreement between the British and Irish governments to keep the North South Ministerial Council operating.

He also rejected suggestions that his party would have known what would happen to the cross-border bodies.

Sir Reg said the source of difficulty was the form of the treaty and the language used. "We were never shown the draft of this treaty," he said.

"We never had any input into this draft and had we ever had sight of it we would have known the pitfalls that it contains."

Brian Cowen said he would be in contact with the Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy about the matter.

He said the purpose of the legislation was "temporary and remedial", pending the restoration of the institutions.

"We wanted the north-south bodies to continue on a care and management basis," he said

Talks threat

Earlier on Wednesday, Paul Murphy met Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble in London to discuss the issue.

Northern Ireland's power-sharing institutions were suspended on 14 October following allegations of continuing IRA activity.

The UUP has indicated it could withdraw from multi-party talks aimed at restoring devolution if there is a private deal on the North-South Ministerial Council.

Speaking in Londonderry on Tuesday, Paul Murphy said the council lay suspended, as did the assembly, but the government would clarify the situation in the days ahead.

Mr Murphy and Mr Cowen have also been co-hosting multi-party talks but so far there is no sign of progress.

The Ulster Unionists have insisted they will not return to power-sharing with Sinn Fein until there is absolute certainty the IRA will cease all paramilitary activity.

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.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
David Ervine of the PUP:
"The way to get rid of this dangerous temporary measure is to get the Assembly up and running again"
Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis

Analysis

Background

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

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See also:

09 Dec 02 | N Ireland
28 Nov 02 | N Ireland
20 Nov 02 | N Ireland
19 Nov 02 | N Ireland
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