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Tuesday, July 13, 1999 Published at 07:44 GMT 08:44 UK


UK Politics

Call to back peace plan

Mo Mowlam and Tony Blair: Appealing for unionist support

As MPs prepare to debate the 'failsafe' bill intended to force forward the Northern Ireland peace process, Mo Mowlam has appealed to all sides to risk backing the plan.

The Search for Peace
The legislation, which was tabled on Monday evening, includes a "failsafe mechanism" for excluding Sinn Fein from the province's new executive if the IRA fails to give up its weapons.

But the Northern Ireland secretary told the BBC the backdrop of peaceful parades by Orangemen in the province showed a new future could be forged.

Unless unionists gambled on promises that the IRA would disarm within weeks of the establishment of the assembly executive, the peace process could collapse without anyone being sure who was to blame.


Mo Mowlam: "Let's do it"
"I trust all parties in the talks, that they are determined to make progress," Dr Mowlam said.

"Whether I'm right or wrong, if they take this leap it will be clear in two or three weeks whether they are serious.


[ image: The
The "failsafe" provides for Sinn Fein's expulsion if the IRA keeps its arms
"The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland want this to work. We will know in two or three weeks who's serious. Let's do it."

But Conservatives are backing the Ulster Unionists by planning to table amendments to the bill when it starts its day-long passage through the House of Commons.

Both parties want a more detailed timetable for decommissioning to be set out in the legislation. They equally believe it should link a halt to terrorist prisoner releases to a failure to disarm by paramilitaries.


Andrew Mackay: "We will want link to terrorist prisoners"
Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Andrew Mackay said: "Our concerns are that the failsafe guarantees that the prime minister put forward to the people of Northern Ireland are just not in the legislation. That means we are now having to put forward amendments."

Dr Mowlam promised to study the amendments being tabled - but gave a strong hint the government would force the bill through the Commons using its parliamentary majority.

'Grab peace opportunity'


Tim Franks: "The schedule is hectic"
The government plans to rush the 'failsafe' bill through Parliament by Thursday, with a view to transferring power to Northern Ireland's politicians at the weekend.


[ image:  ]
There are still obstacles to overcome. After talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday evening, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said he still had problems latest proposals for the peace process.

He said: "There are still continuing problems, but there are still continuing consultations going on."

Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin accused unionists of trying to provoke the IRA into resuming violence by a "fixation with weapons that are silent".

He added: "I think it is time for unionism to grab this opportunity for peace with both hands."

Moment of truth


Robin Oakley reports: "Ulster Unionist leaders were still looking for greater safeguards"
Despite the difficulties, the prime minister's official spokesman said Mr Blair was "hopeful" the legislation could be rushed through.

If the bill does clear the Commons as expected, it will continue its passage through the House of Lords on Wednesday and Thursday.


[ image: The Commons debate is expected to run late into the night]
The Commons debate is expected to run late into the night
At that point the Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam, would trigger the so-called d'Hondt mechanism for appointing ministers in the new power-sharing executive.

The next day the devolution order would be laid, with the actual transfer of power taking place on Sunday.

However, the moment of truth is likely to come on Wednesday when the 110-strong executive of the Ulster Unionist Party meets in Belfast to decide whether it would be prepared to enter into an executive with Sinn Fein.



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UK Politics Contents

A-Z of Parliament
Talking Politics
Vote 2001

Relevant Stories

13 Jul 99 | UK Politics
The 'failsafe' bill: full text

12 Jul 99 | UK
Police chief praises peaceful march

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How the plan would work

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Festival feel with a touch of politics

11 Jul 99 | UK Politics
Trimble spurns Blair 'gamble'

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Marching to the beat of tradition





Internet Links


Lower Ormeau Concerned Community

Irish Government

Ulster Unionist Party

Sinn Fein

The Nothern Ireland Office

The Grand Orange Lodge of Northern Ireland

Parades Commission for Northern Ireland


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