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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 April, 2004, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
NI parties 'must be clean'
Tony Blair said he wanted to get back into negotiations
Tony Blair said he wanted to get back into negotiations
All parties in Northern Ireland's government must be clean of connections to paramilitary activity, Tony Blair has insisted.

Speaking at his monthly media briefing, the prime minister said the Independent Monitoring Commission would play a central role in the political process.

Secretary of State Paul Murphy announced on Tuesday that sanctions would be imposed on parties linked to paramilitary groups still involved in violence and other criminal activities.

The move came after the publication of a report which highlighted the levels of paramilitary activity by both republican and loyalist groups.

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) report, published on Tuesday, recommended action against Sinn Fein and the Progressive Unionist Party in response to continuing IRA and loyalist violence.

On Thursday, Mr Blair said: "The question is, is this IMC process, the idea of an independent commission that monitors the obligations of the parties - including those of the governments, incidentally - is this going to play now a central role in the future of the peace process in Northern Ireland?

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"And I think you can see the answer to that very clearly from yesterday."

He said he hoped "as soon as possible we will get back into intensive negotiations".

"Because the only way we are going to deal with this is to make sure that people face up to the basic issue, which is that we have everything agreed in Northern Ireland and we just need one thing to come into place - that is the acceptance by everybody that we can no longer tolerate any level of paramilitary activity.

"That paramilitary activity, terrorism - whether it is so-called loyalist or republican - is what is holding the peace process back in Northern Ireland."

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said he will seek an explanation from Tony Blair on Friday as to how the government thought the political process would be moved forward by financial sanctions.

He said his party was still taking legal advice on the sanctions, but the damage to the process should not be underestimated.

He described the IMC as "a collection of spies, spooks, retired civil servants and failed politicians".
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said he will seek an explanation from Tony Blair
Gerry Adams said he will seek an explanation from Tony Blair

On Wednesday, the Northern Ireland secretary said talks in the review of the Good Friday Agreement were to begin again next Tuesday.

Mr Murphy confirmed the date after he held talks with Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen to discuss a report into paramilitary violence on Wednesday.

Mr Murphy said the governments would be writing to all the political parties in the next few days and hoped they would all take part in the review.

However, the Ulster Unionist Party has said it is going to talk to the government before deciding whether to take part in the talks.

The party walked out of the review in February over Sinn Fein's continuing participation in the talks amid alleged IRA activity.




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