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Saturday, 12 May, 2001, 14:19 GMT
Paisley predicts fresh NI talks
Ian Paisley
Ian Paisley wants to increase the DUP's vote
The leader of a hardline unionist party has said the government will be forced to call a new set of political negotiations on the peace process after the general election.

Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley also said his party would never take the position of first minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly under the current arrangements.


We will not be at the table with IRA/Sinn Fein or anybody else that has arms in their hands

Ian Paisley

The political talks have been focusing on the issues deadlocking the peace process, namely decommissioning, British Army demilitarisation and policing.

Speaking on BBC NI's Inside Politics Programme on Saturday, Mr Paisley claimed new discussions were inevitable - and once again vowed not to meet Sinn Fein.

"I believe that we will have negotiations at the end of this election," he said.

"We will be discussing these matters only with constitutional politicians at home and only with the British Government.

"We will not be at the table with IRA/Sinn Fein or anybody else that has arms in their hands and threats on their lips that are going to murder people and bomb people and destroy."

The Democratic Unionist Party is opposed to the Good Friday Agreement, although it takes its seats at Stormont.

Mr Paisley added: "No Democratic Unionist member will be, under the present structure, first minister or deputy minister.

"Because we have to get the system changed, and the system has to be changed in such a way that the Sinn Fein/IRA, the SDLP, or anyone else, has no veto whatsoever on a democratic assembly."

Sir Reg Empey poured scorn on Mr Paisley's claims
Sir Reg Empey poured scorn on Mr Paisley's claims

However, Ulster Unionist economy minister Reg Emepy attacked Mr Paisley's claim.

"It's absolutely cloud cuckoo land," he said.

"Who out there believes that Ian Paisley is going to negotiate with anybody?

"He's already said he won't talk to republicans, and yet he sits with republicans every day."

Sir Reg said the SDLP had made it clear they were "not even contemplating anything fresh" and Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was sticking with the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Paisley also said his party was confident of strengthening its place within unionism on polling day.

The DUP currently holds three Westminster seats but has predicted it will take eight this time around.

Pressure

On Thursday, the party announced it was running in 14 of the 18 constituencies - its highest total ever.

The five extra seats being particularly targeted by them are understood to be: East Londonderry, East Antrim, Strangford, West Tyrone and North Belfast.

These seats are currently held by the Ulster Unionists.

At present the UUP hold nine of Northern Ireland's Westminster seats.

But many commentators have speculated that the party will be under more pressure than ever before from the rival DUP over their positions on the Good Friday Agreement.

The UUP is officially pro-Agreement but the party is split over whether it should continue to sit in government with Sinn Fein in the absence of IRA decommissioning.

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