Tuesday, July 13, 1999 Published at 07:44 GMT 08:44 UK
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.
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.
"Whether I'm right or wrong, if they take this leap it will be clear in two or three weeks whether they are serious.
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.
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'
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
If the bill does clear the Commons as expected, it will continue its passage through the House of Lords on Wednesday and Thursday.
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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