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Last Updated: Monday, 14 November 2005, 17:51 GMT
DUP talks absence 'is no problem'
Peter Hain
Peter Hain will meet Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern
The British and Irish governments have "no problem" with the DUP's decision not to attend talks with them, the Northern Ireland secretary has said.

The party said the governments "already knew their position on the issues" to be discussed at Hillsborough next week.

However, Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern revealed that the DUP would meet his government in Dublin on Friday.

Mr Ahern said the Dublin talks were "no more important" than the "stocktaking talks" at Hillsborough on Monday.

Arms issue

"We offered that we would either meet jointly or separately up here and this has been the way that discussions have taken place before..." he said.

Speaking after the meeting, Sinn Fein MP Martin McGuiness said the two governments had told his party that Ian Paisley would go into government, "but for the issue of arms".

"Ian Paisley tells us he is a man of God. I would like to know if he is a man of his word," he said.

The other parties at the talks were the PUP and Robert McCartney's UK Unionists.

Issues tabled for discussion included parades, policing and restorative justice.

The SDLP and the Ulster Unionists and Alliance will hold discussions with the ministers on 24 November

Martin McGuinness
Mr McGuinness said there were "issues no party could block"

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said it was for the DUP to "decide whether they wanted to tell the two governments their views".

However, the DUP's Nigel Dodds called the talks "a stunt on the part of the government to try and give the impression that some process" was beginning.

"We have made it very clear that there can be no such process until the issues of confidence, equality and human rights for the unionist community, which have been sadly lacking as part as this process, are addressed," he said.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey accused the DUP of "play acting".

"They should be in those talks along with us and others fighting to get as much as we can for the pro-union community. We know that there are major social and economic issues," he said.

UDA statement

At a news conference before Monday's talks, Mr Hain referred to a statement made on behalf of loyalist paramilitaries, the Ulster Defence Association, on Sunday.

The statement, read by leading loyalist Tommy Kirkham at a Remembrance Day ceremony in Rathcoole, north Belfast, suggested that the UDA was willing to discuss its future with the British government.

Mr Hain said he hoped words would "be followed up by concrete action".

"If this is a genuine political breakthrough, that the UDA are really saying they are turning their back on violence and murder and gangsterism and want to go down the political road, then we are happy to take them with us," he said.

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