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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 October, 2004, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Ahern hopes for NI progress
Dermot Ahern spoke for the first time in his new role
Dermot Ahern spoke for the first time in his new role
The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister has expressed hopes for an improvement in the political situation in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks.

However, Dermot Ahern said he could not guarantee this would be the case.

He was speaking in the Irish Parliament on Tuesday, for the first time in his new role.

Mr Ahern said the aims of both governments were to bring an end to paramilitarism and to restore and stabilise the political institutions.

The political institutions in Northern Ireland were suspended in October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at the Northern Ireland Office.

On Monday, Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy said a breakthrough in the political process could be just weeks away.

Mr Murphy said he thought the DUP was prepared to share power with Sinn Fein and a major IRA decommissioning move could be imminent.

He told a meeting of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body in Wales he was confident a deal could be struck soon to break the deadlock.

The Stormont institutions have been suspended for two years

The secretary of state said he was convinced that all the Northern Ireland parties were determined to make progress as soon as possible to restore the institutions at Stormont.

Fianna Fail Senator Paschal Mooney said he was in no doubt that the IRA was poised to make a significant act in the coming weeks.

However, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said he had "grave concerns" about the position of the British and Irish Governments over possible changes to the institutions.

Mr McGuinness said that while Sinn Fein was still up for doing a deal, the parties needed to work towards a speedy conclusion.

The SDLP leader, Mark Durkan, warned the governments against imposing proposals on the political parties in the next few weeks.

Mr Durkan said this would be a recipe for "further problems" and would not bring stability.

At the conclusion of intensive political talks at Leeds Castle in Kent last month, Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern said the thorny issues of IRA disarmament and future paramilitary activity appeared to be resolved.

However, the two governments were unable to get the Northern Ireland Assembly parties to sign up to a deal over power-sharing after unionists and nationalists clashed over future devolved institutions.






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