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1997: Peace talks wobble after Unionist outburst
An MP in the Ulster Unionist Party has launched a fierce attack on the British Government and Sinn Fein.

Ken Maginnis was speaking on the day his party ended its self-imposed 80-year ban on talks with the political wing of the IRA.

Mr Maginnis and UUP leader David Trimble met the Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams, at the conference table during multi-party talks on Northern Ireland at Stormont.

The party used the talks to accuse Sinn Fein of continuing involvement in violence and the Labour Government of "bringing murderers to the table of democracy".

UK Northern Ireland Minister Mo Mowlam hailed the meeting as "another step forward" - the first time leading Unionists, Loyalists, Nationalists and Republicans had gathered in the same room.

But Mr Adams said the UUP leader had refused his hand of friendship.

Mr Maginnis said during a 45-minute indictment that Sinn Fein had rejected the Mitchell Principles of democracy and non-violence they signed two weeks ago.

And he challenged the Irish and British governments to throw them out of the multi-party talks.

The Unionist MP said New Labour had "elevated an evil Mafia to a status that would shame any other country in Western Europe".

'Scampered out'

The UUP believe the IRA was involved in last week's attack at Markethill, County Armagh, breaking its ceasefire. Republican splinter group the Continuity Army Council has said it planted the bomb.

Mr Trimble and the rest of the Unionist delegation left the conference room immediately after the statement and held a news conference outside.

Mr Adams and fellow MP Martin McGuinness left the meeting an hour later and immediately criticised the unionists for "scampering out" of the talks without waiting for their reply.

"I think everybody acknowledges that if we are not in the talks there is no prospect of a settlement in this conflict," said Mr McGuinness.

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Watch/Listen
Ken Maginnis appearing on BBC's Newsnight, August 1997
Ken Maginnis calls for Sinn Fein to be thrown out of multi-party talks

Sinn Fein to be allowed into the Irish peace talks



In Context
The gruelling series of multi-party talks at Stormont resulted in the Good Friday Agreement being signed in April 1998.

The historic 65-page document included plans for a Northern Ireland Assembly and new cross-border institutions.

The leadership of most of the main political parties in Northern Ireland welcomed the agreement but several Unionist MPs defected from their party so they could oppose it.

The Agreement was subsequently endorsed in referendums in Northern Ireland (71.2% voting yes) and the Irish Republic (94.4% voting yes).

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