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Last Updated: Friday, 17 March 2006, 18:39 GMT
PMs will give NI talks assessment
Bertie Ahern and George Bush
Bertie Ahern has been holding a series of Washington meetings
The British and Irish prime ministers are to give an assessment of the political process in Northern Ireland in about three weeks time.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said he and his British counterpart Tony Blair would make a joint statement on the talks.

He was speaking after a meeting with US President George Bush at the White House on St Patrick's Day.

Earlier, Mr Ahern said he hoped politicians were back in devolved government by Christmas.

He said "real progress" was made in the past year, including the IRA's armed campaign ending and decommissioning.

However, the Irish prime minister told the American Ireland Fund's gala St Patrick's dinner in Washington that Sinn Fein must sign up to policing.

Mr Ahern said both he and Tony Blair were "committed" to making 2006 a "decisive year for Northern Ireland".

Criminal activity

"When we gathered here on the eve of St Patrick's Day last year, we all recognised that we had reached a turning point in the peace process," he said.

"I made clear that we needed to see total change.

"We needed to see an end to paramilitary and criminal activity and the completion of decommissioning of weapons.

"We had to move forward on an exclusively peaceful, democratic basis.

"As I stand here tonight, I can tell you that since we last gathered, there has been real progress in the peace process."

He also said that working class loyalists in Northern Ireland must not be left behind as the peace process progresses.

"I have always said the peace process must leave nobody behind," he said.

Mr Ahern is in Washington for St Patrick's Day celebrations, as are many prominent Northern Ireland politicians.

Mr Bush said the good relations between the US and Ireland should continue.

"The united states appreciates all of Ireland's efforts for peace and freedom. Americans are grateful to our Irish friends and we are proud of our Irish heritage," he said.

"The Census Bureau tells us there are more than 34 million Americans that claim Irish ancestry."





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