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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 December 2005, 19:30 GMT
Cameron in peace process pledge
Mr Cameron visited Belfast's Lagan College
Mr Cameron visited Belfast's Lagan College
New Conservative Party leader David Cameron has pledged to promote the Northern Ireland political process wherever he can.

However, the IRA must prove it has ended its paramilitary and criminal behaviour to ensure progress, he said.

Mr Cameron was speaking during a visit to Belfast, which was part of his tour of UK regions.

The Tory leader's first stop was to Lagan College in the city, Northern Ireland's first integrated school.

He also visited Impact Training, a community-based training project near the Shankill Road peaceline.

My party in parliament has been very, very clear that people who have committed dreadful crimes in the past must appear in court
David Cameron
Conservative Party leader
Speaking at Lagan College, the Tory leader said he was very keen to get to every part of the United Kingdom before Christmas.

"Today is 12 years to the day that John Major and Albert Reynolds signed the Downing Street Declaration that started the move towards the peace process and the Belfast Agreement," he said.

"What I will do as leader of the Conservative Party, is work with the government, where possible, to try and help bring peace and progress to Northern Ireland.

"Today, most of all I am here to listen and here to learn. I hope that it is the first of many trips that I will be making."

Mr Cameron also said he was maintaining his party's opposition to controversial paramilitary 'on-the-runs' legislation.

"My party in parliament has been very, very clear that people who have committed dreadful crimes in the past must appear in court," he said.

"I hear rumours today that the government is making some moves on this legislation and we will respond constructively to them".

Front-bench reshuffle

Mr Cameron also attended a number of private engagements. It is believed a meeting with Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde was one of the meetings on his itinerary.

No talks with the NI party leaders were planned for this visit, but he has been meeting some Northern Ireland-based Conservatives.

The new leader was accompanied on his visit by David Lidington, the party's spokesman on Northern Ireland.

Mr Lidington retained his position as shadow Northern Ireland secretary despite a front-bench reshuffle by Mr Cameron, who was elected as the new Conservative leader earlier this month.

The 39-year-old fought off the challenge of David Davis by a margin of more than two to one votes in a postal ballot of party members across the UK.


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