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The BBC's Tom Coulter
"The outcome of this morning's meeting a foregone conclusion"
 real 28k

Talks chairman, George Mitchell
Upbeat after four years
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Friday, 19 November, 1999, 07:48 GMT
We have basis for peace - Mitchell
George Mitchell: "Basis now exists for devolution to occur"

Northern Ireland talks chairman George Mitchell has outlined the plan he believes will lead to the creation of a power-sharing government.

The Search for Peace
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George Mitchell Profile
Link to Sinn Fein
Link to UUP
Link to Decommissioning
In his final report, the former US senator has detailed a series of steps which would lead to the parties to sitting in government together for the first time.

Speaking in Belfast on Thursday, George Mitchell said: "I believe that a basis now exists for devolution to occur, for the institutions to be established and for decommissioning to take place, as soon as possible.

"Devolution should take effect, then the executive should meet, and then the paramilitary groups should appoint their authorised representatives all on the same day, in that order.

"I hereby recommend to the governments and to the parties that they make the necessary arrangements to proceed and call on them to do so without delay."

Mr Mitchell was delivering his final report on the review after 11 weeks of intensive talks between the pro-Agreement political parties.

The main parties have been reacting to the Mitchell blueprint for devolution.

Speaking shortly after Mr Mitchell's statement, the Ulster Unionist's senior talks negotiator Sir Reg Empey thanked Mr Mitchell saying he had shown "patience that would have tried the patience of a saint".

He said it was important all the statements made by parties were taken together and the party's objectives remained devolution and decommissioning.

Sir Reg said: "There is no other way forward and the real winners will be the people."

But other senior Ulster Unionists have been expressing severe reservations.

East Londonderry MP William Ross, who is an opponent of the Good Friday Agreement, urged fellow party members to ignore "soothing voices" from the churches, the business community, and the government.

Ian Paisley Jnr: "Dogs in the street know more than [Senator] Mitchell"
Ian Paisley Jnr. of the anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party sharply criticised Mr Mitchell's assertion paramilitary disarmament would be impossible if the process failed

.

"In effect nothing has changed since the review commenced," he said. "There is no decommissioning as part of the review and there will be no decommissioning as a result of the review."

He said: "Unionists should reflect on the fact that when the Sinn Fein/IRA talk of progress they mean progress towards a united republican Ireland."


Neither side will get all it wanted and both will endure severe political pain. But there is no other way forward.
George Mitchell
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said that like the UUP and SDLP he welcomed Mr Mitchell's concluding report and the steps that had taken place this week.

Mr Adams said: "In our view the way has now been cleared for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

"The full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement holds out the best hope of securing an end to injustice and the inequalities and conflict which have troubled Ireland and our people for generations.

"But it is also very much about proving the efficacy of politics, that politics is the alternative to conflict, that politics works and that politics can bring about change and that will be the big test in the time ahead."


In a sense I am at home, because my emotions and a part of my heart will be here for ever
George Mitchell
He said Sinn Fein had been preparing effective and radical policies on all the main economic and social issues and they would be bringing them forward.

The delivery of his report brings down the final curtain on George Mitchell's mammoth effort to help find a way to break the deadlock over the province's peace process.

He returned to Belfast on Wednesday night as dissension grew within the Ulster Unionist Party over the IRA statement on arms.

Just before the review statement, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson praised the work of Mr Mitchell and thanked him for dedicating four years of his life to the peace process.

Speaking in Downing Street he added that the province's political parties have "a very great responsibility indeed for making sure that what has been achieved is taken forward".

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See also:
18 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
George Mitchell bids farewell
18 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Mitchell statement in full
18 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Mitchell intervenes to help shipyard
18 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Talks parties' praise for Mitchell
12 Nov 99 |  Talking Point
Should the Ulster Unionists say yes?
16 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Sinn Fein: Guns deadlock will end
16 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Arms statement not enough - Donaldson
16 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Analysis: Jigsaw of peace
16 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Promising climate for peace
17 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
IRA statement signals new approach

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