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The BBC's Peter Hunt
"Decommissioning is the thorn in the side"
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Friday, 3 December, 1999, 08:19 GMT
Former secretary delighted with settlement
Peter Brooke: Delight at developments in peace process

A former Northern Ireland Secretary, who was once criticised for praising Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, has spoken of his pleasure at the formation of power-sharing government.

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The efforts made by Peter Brooke to bring Sinn Fein and the unionists into meaningful talks may have prepared the ground for the current agreement.

In November 1989, the Conservative party MP said he believed that the troubles were going to end in talking.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster on Friday he said: "What I've never known from the time I was secretary of state was how long it was going to take.

"I'm very pleased that within a decade we actually achieved it."

He praised the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour party leader John Hume for showing "enormous stamina" over a 30 year period.

But he also singled out Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble for his "salient courage" in leading his party into talks which involved Sinn Fein.

Mr Brooke was criticised in 1985 for saying on the BBC Panorama programme, that he thought Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams had shown great courage.

But he told Radio Ulster: "A large number of people made their contribution to the mosaic and the important thing was the jigsaw was finally put together."

Feelings about talks

Mr Brooke said his predecessors had explored the possibility of how the political parties felt about getting into talks.

"We didn't falter, in principle we always went forward," he added.

He said he had the profoundest sympathy for people who had suffered as a result of three decades of violence.

"I do understand with great poignancy how they feel. It puts an added pressure on those now serving government in Northern Ireland, to make it work, so that it can be demonstrated that it was the right thing to do."

Hurt and dismay

Speaking on the same programme, Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Bishop James Mehaffey, said there were feelings of deep hurt and dismay at the events of the past week.

"The legacy of violence over 30 years has left deep hurts and wounds, particularly in the Protestant unionist community but also every community in Northern Ireland.

"Some of the personalities involved in the new administration are identified in the minds of many people with that violent trend."

But he said he alongside that he was meeting a "different spirit" of people who wanted to give the new government a chance.

He said a lot of people found the appointment of Londonderry-born Martin McGuinness as education minister hard to swallow.

But he said it was time for the politicians to get down to the bread and butter issues and put aside their party allegiances
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