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Sunday, October 24, 1999 Published at 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Methodist church in talks appeal

The Agreement belongs to the people minister says

The president of the Methodist Church in Ireland has urged the politicians to take one more step in order to achieve a breakthrough in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Dr Kenneth Wilson told BBC Radio Ulster it was the overwhelming desire of people in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic to see the Good Friday Agreement peace accord implemented.

He said: "I would beg the politicians to remember that this is not their Agreement.

"Everybody has owned this. This belongs to the people.

"Throughout Ireland, north and south, there will be prayers praying that somehow a breakthrough of trust and respect will be achieved and we will know the joy of living in a non-violent society.

"We have come so far. Just go that one bit further."

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Dr Wilson's appeal followed a decision to extend the talks in an attempt to salvage the Agreement.

On Saturday former US senator George Mitchell, who is chairing the current review of the peace process, decided to give the parties more time to reach agreement because he said they were making a "serious effort" to resolve their differences.

The politicians will enter the final stage of the seven-week review on Monday and Tuesday before reconvening with Mr Mitchell on Wednesday.

Mandelson appeal to public

The minister's comments echoed an appeal made by the Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson on Saturday.

[ image: Peter Mandelson: Appeal for people pressure]
Peter Mandelson: Appeal for people pressure
Mr Mandelson called on the people to spur the politicians on to a deal.

Speaking to reporters outside the talks at Castle Buildings in Belfast he said there was still hope that the review would succeed.

He said: "I do believe that in the coming week we have it within our grasp, finally, to enable to Good Friday Agreement to go forward.

"But I want the message to come loud and clear from the people of Northern Ireland for all the politicians to hear: They must make that deal."

Mr Mandelson added that while the Agreement is not implemented there is a risk of a return to violence.

A delegation from the pro-Agreement community-based pressure group People Moving On staged a demonstration outside the talks at Stormont on Saturday to express their desire that the Agreement should be implemented.

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