Category: Archive

Adams, Trimble confer, but deal remains distant

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — The Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, and Sinn Fein’s president, Gerry Adams, held secret talks last week just before Trimble left Northern Ireland for a brief visit to the U.S. and Canada as negotiations continued to salvage the Good Friday agreement before another looming deadline.

A Sinn Fein source said the leaders focused on the imperative of fulfilling the troubled agreement. A spokesman for Adams said, "Clearly, Sinn Fein is totally dissatisfied at the lack of progress."

Downing Street said last week that June 30 was the "absolute" deadline for devolving power to the Northern Ireland assembly and power-sharing executive, which must have both Ulster Unionist and Sinn Fein members.

Adams said that British Prime Minister Tony Blair had given him a solemn undertaking that, if there was not a transfer of power by June 30, then the agreement was finished and the assembly would be suspended.

Anti-agreement unionists are claiming that Trimble is about to agree to nominate ministers to the new power-sharing Executive at the end of next month. They claim Trimble’s strategy is intended to bring Sinn Fein closer toward accepting IRA decommissioning as an obligation under the agreement.

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East Derry MP Willie Ross, who vehemently opposes the agreement, said, however, that such a move would be "absolutely crazy" and would plunge the Ulster Unionist Party into crisis.

Pro-agreement assemblyman Sir Reg Empey, described such talk was "deplorable" nonsense as it would be impossible for Trimble to agree to nominate ministers without consulting the party fully.

Reliable sources said that Blair and his office were furious this week when Trimble failed to turn up for scheduled talks in London, although both Adams and John Hume, the SDLP leader, made themselves available at short notice.

Trimble denied "snubbing" Blair, saying that it had not been clear the previous night that the talks would continue into the morning and that his party was available at all times for consultations at Stormont.

Adams said after his meetings with Blair: "I have always worked on the broad proposition that if you give the Unionists room to maneuver, they will maneuver."

"They are against change, they are fearful of change, they are opposed to change. What is important is that Tony Blair, who was focused, who worked hard, who went out of Downing Street last Friday on the basis that he had a position, should re-focus himself."

Adams criticized unionist attempts to link the ongoing Drumcree crisis to the current broader negotiations.

"That will be resisted," he said. "We want to see the Drumcree crisis resolved, because the people there are under siege."

As talks in the North continue, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has moved to reassure the Ulster Unionists that the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons is not being sidelined in the document that emerged from May 14 talks in Downing Street.

Ahern told the Dail that the document envisioned the triggering of the mechanism to allow the appointment of members of the executive, but that talks involving General John de Chastelain would be intensified to try to find a resolution of the arms issue.

He said that the peace process will fail if any of the parties are forced to do anything against their wishes and warned against "unduly straining" Trimble’s negotiating position.

After a meeting of his assembly party at Stormont this week, Trimble put his party’s position bluntly. It was, he said, a position of "No guns, no government."

May 26-June 1, 1999

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