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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 20:50 GMT 21:50 UK
'Autumn push' for NI talks
Mr Ahern and Mr Blair met the parties at Lancaster House
Mr Ahern and Mr Blair met the parties at Lancaster House
Intensive talks aimed at restoring devolution in Northern Ireland will be held in September, Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

Mr Blair was speaking after the British and Irish Government held bi-lateral discussions with Northern Ireland's parties at Lancaster House on Friday.

The political institutions have been suspended since October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at the Northern Ireland Office.

It is understood Friday's talks were aimed at agreeing a process to resolve contentious issues, such as acts of completion, rather than actually resolving them.

Mr Blair said the British and Irish Governments would set aside several days for the talks in September.

He said they would attempt to resolve four ongoing issues at the talks: paramilitary activity, decommissioning, the suspended institutions and policing.

We can't just keep having discussions that don't lead to any ultimate conclusions
Bertie Ahern
Irish prime minister

There was a "real recognition" among the parties as well as the two governments "that it is time to come to the point of decision," he said.

"The people of Northern Ireland want that."

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern urged the parties to work with the governments to find a resolution.

"We can't just keep having discussions that don't lead to any ultimate conclusions," he said.


The issue of ongoing paramilitary activity remains a major obstacle to restoring devolved government, with Northern Ireland's largest party, the Democratic Unionists, adamant that the IRA must wind down if they are ever to share power with Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said both governments had "wasted" Friday's talks.

"We were here in London to do business today and as we left, all of us in Sinn Fein looked on today as a missed opportunity," he said.

"With September now the deadline being set by the governments, what we were looking for today was for them to convince us that this is a serious process so we could convince others."

The SDLP warmly welcomes the talks in September - we hope that they will see the two crux issues resolved
Mark Durkan
SDLP leader

DUP leader Ian Paisley said there had been a "very useful exchange of views" with both governments.

"We believe it is possible to detect the faint outline and context of a way forward that would be agreeable to us, but while the component parts have been identified much work will be needed to resolve the significant differences that still exist," he said.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said there needed to be "real movement" from Sinn Fein and the DUP.

"The DUP have to make clear that they are willing to work the Agreement. Sinn Fein and loyalists have to ensure a total end to paramilitary activity. These are the two crux issues," he said.

"The SDLP warmly welcomes the talks in September. We hope that they will see the two crux issues resolved."

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said failure to resolve the issues in September would leave "a huge question of credibility about the process".

He voiced disappointment at the failure to resolve the issues.

Alliance Party leader David Ford said there was a need to build a united community, improving community relations and dealing with the concerns of victims.

He said there was "a clear need for a major effort by the governments as well as the parties to use the summer to do their groundwork".

The issue of a contentious Orange Order parade in Belfast was also discussed during talks with the two governments.

The discussions followed a ruling by the Parades Commission to bar Orangemen from walking down part of the Springfield Road during the annual Whiterock parade on Saturday.

The commission reversed that decision on Friday afternoon.

The DUP said it had held two separate meetings with the prime ministers, one to explore the Whiterock issue and the other to deal with the general political situation.






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