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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 January, 2004, 22:42 GMT
Good Friday review to begin soon
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
Ahern said the Agreement should not be fundamentally changed
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has confirmed that the review of the Good Friday Agreement will begin on 29 January.

Mr Ahern said that the review will go on for several months and may last beyond Easter.

He said that British and Irish officials will be meeting next week to work out the mechanisms and operations of the review.

"It is my view that the review should meet formally two days a week," Mr Ahern added.

The review could run until at least Easter but is likely to be interrupted by campaigning for the European elections in June.

NI Secretary Paul Murphy and Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen are set to meet this month to finalise the plans.

The devolved administration at Stormont was suspended in October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence-gathering in the Stormont government.

They [the UK and Irish Governments] are adamant that the review will not be long and open-ended
Alliance leader David Ford

The review would involve all the Northern Ireland Assembly parties.

Mr Ahern made the announcement after meeting Alliance Party leader David Ford.

Mr Ford said the UK and Irish Governments appeared to be looking at a review which could last several months.

"The target appears to be two or three months," Mr Ford said.

"However there is a recognition that given the amount of work which will have to be done it could take longer."

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams had called for a "short, sharp, focused" process lasting one month.

The SDLP had also pressed for a limited, short review, but the DUP, now the largest party in the province, wants radical changes to the Agreement.

The Ulster Unionists wants a brief review focusing solely on the problem of paramilitaries.

The cross-community Alliance Party published its proposals for the review of the Good Friday Agreement on Wednesday.

'No radical changes'

It called for a change to the way devolved governments are established in Northern Ireland.

It wants a voluntary coalition similar to the ones operating in Scotland and Wales.

This would be accountable to the Assembly, instead of the inclusive power-sharing executive involving unionist and nationalist parties.

Mr Ahern told the BBC last week both the British and Irish Governments had made it clear the Agreement could be reviewed, but they were not prepared to make fundamental changes to it.






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