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Thursday, July 1, 1999 Published at 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK

UK Politics

How the talks drama unfolded

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness take a break from the talks

By BBC Northern Ireland Political Editor Stephen Grimason

The history of Northern Ireland has again been played out on the world stage.

On Wednesday, world leaders were queuing up to offer their support, as key players in the peace process tried to work out a deal that would enable the establishment of a power sharing executive.

Early on Wednesday morning, the mood was reasonably positive but by lunchtime it had become more sombre.

The Search for Peace
By mid-afternoon the mood from the two main parties was pessimistic, although the UK and Irish governments remained upbeat.

As mid-evening approached, more details emerged about the real nature of Sinn Fein's offer on decommissioning.

The key elements of the offer were that the party would sign up to a timetable for giving up weapons, beginning later this year and leading to total decommissioning by May 2000.

This was in return for the triggering of the D'hondt mechanism - the selection of a Northern Ireland executive which includes Sinn Fein.

Republican sources told the BBC they would deliver decommissioning if the deal was agreed.

Report published

However, Ulster Unionists were still unhappy with that offer because the sequence involved required Sinn Fein to be involved in the executive for at least three months before any weapons were handed over. This, they said, was immoral.

As the night progressed, further meetings were held, including sessions with the Ulster Unionists and Sinn Fein.

Gerry Adams asked to address the Ulster Unionists personally, but this was refused.

[ image: Tony Blair left the talks in the small hours]
Tony Blair left the talks in the small hours
Shortly after midnight first minister and leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, David Trimble, formally rejected Sinn Fein's offer.

He produced his own report which he gave to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, but details of which were not made public.

At about 0400 BST, the talks broke up without agreement.

Tony Blair has cancelled his planned trip on Thursday to the opening of the Scottish Parliament to stay in Belfast for further talks. These begin at 1200 BST.

Decision day timetable

This is how the day unfolded as the midnight deadline in the Northern Ireland peace talks loomed:

  • 0850 BST: Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and his team arrive at Stormont, declaring "it is now decisions day".
  • 0910 BST: Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern arrive at Castle Buildings together.
  • 0921 BST: They are joined by Northern Ireland Secretary of State Mo Mowlam.
  • 0930 BST: European Commission President Romano Prodi issues a message of support for the talks participants urging them to "work together to build peace".
  • 0940 BST: Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble arrives, issuing a challenge to the republican movement to choose whether it will commit itself to democratic politics or the gun.
  • 1050 BST: A choir of schoolchildren arrives, and are joined by Dr Mowlam in a song for peace.
  • 1250 BST: Democratic Unionist Party leader the Rev Ian Paisley insists that in any deal, "guns must be produced, they must be destroyed and there must be complete and total disarmament".
  • 1445 BST: Protesters from the victims' group Families Acting For Innocent Relatives (FAIR), accompanied by anti-Agreement unionists, demand a meeting with the prime minister.
  • 1530 BST: Ulster Unionists and the SDLP hold the first meetings between parties.
  • 1640 BST: David Trimble and his Ulster Unionist team meet FAIR on the steps of Castle Buildings.
  • 1815 BST: Victims group FAIR meets Mr Blair.
  • 1900 BST: Portadown Orangemen travel to Castle Buildings to discuss Drumcree crisis with the prime minister.
  • 2030 BST: Tony Blair updates Bill Clinton by phone.
  • 2230 BST: Gerry Adams says prior decommissioning is not achievable.
  • 2302 BST: David Trimble says he has received nothing concrete from Sinn Fein.
  • 0340 BST: The talks are adjourned without agreement.

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