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Cross border bodies breakthrough, LVF hands over guns

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN – A major pre-Christmas breakthrough in the faltering Northern Ireland peace talks has been made with agreement on areas of North/South co-operation and implementation bodies and the setting up of the 10 Northern Ireland departments.

It was followed within hours by a symbolic handover of a cache of

weapons by the extreme Loyalist Volunteer Force which were destroyed in the presence of the chairman of the decommissioning body General John de Chastelain.

The kiss of life developments for the peace process were warmly

welcomed in Dublin and London as significant steps that added momentum to the process.

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The breakthrough with agreement on structures came after an 18 hour marathon talks session in Belfast.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern kept in touch by phone and Prime Minister Tony Blair broke away from the Gulf crisis to help the negotiations.

There are to be ten government departments and six cross border

bodies. This will give a power-sharing executive of 3 UUP, 3 SDLP, 2

Sinn Fein and 2 for the DUP, who are bitterly opposed to the Good Friday Agreement.

The government bodies agreed are:

Agriculture and rural development; Enterprise, trade and investment (to include tourism); Health, social care and public safety; Finance and personnel; Education; Advanced education, training and employment; Environment; Regional development; Social development; Culture, arts and leisure.

Six cross border bodies will be set up to deal with:

European Union program; Trade; Language (Irish and Lallans, the Ulster-Scots dialect); Aquaculture and Marine; Inland Waterways; Food Safety.

The agreement was given a qualified welcome by Sinn Fein and was later received the backing of First Minister David Trimble’s UUP ruling executive.

UUP members opposed to it tabled a motion against the deal, but it

was defeated by a margin of 70 percent to 30 percent.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said there were no significant differences

from what had first been agreed a fortnight ago.

The agreement showed that “with sufficient perseverance and

commitment and with a willingness to seek accommodation and to resolve difference, progress can be made and obstacles overcome.

“There remains substantial scope for the further development by

agreement of co-operation, including through the establishment of

additional Implementation Bodies.” Ahern said

While the LVF arms handover was seen as an effort to ensure they are on board the prisoner release scheme, the move has at least broken the decommissioning impasse. The group have been responsible for some of the most cold-blooded atrocities and sectarian murders in the North and had been led by the Portadown-based loyalist Billy Wright, who was murdered in the


Rifles, submachine guns, sawn-off shotguns and revolvers were cut up by weapons experts using electrical equipment.

The Taoiseach was more optimistic about the possibility of IRA

decommissioning following the agreement on the new structures but he stressed it would not be easy.

Previously, he had been unable to say to Sinn Fein that there were two seats for them on the ruling executive and or that there had been progress on cross-border co-operation and implementation bodies.

“It wasn’t a great card for me to play and not a great card for Sinn

Fein to play back in their efforts on the agreement to convince the

IRA,” the taoiseach said.

Ahern warned that small numbers of militant extremists on both sides remained a threat to the peace process.

“We cannot relax on the fact that there are some people, not many,

but some people who do not want to see progress being made.”

He said that particularly since the Omagh bombing on August 15 in

which 29 died, breakaway elements of the paramilitary groups on

cease-fire have “gone into some kind of activities”.

“I do not think they are doing it under the name of their previous

leadership. That splintering has happened on the republican side and I think on the loyalist side. We are not talking about great numbers,” he told RTE.

Gardai estimate about 20 activists are involved on the

republican side.

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