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Police reformthreatens deal

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jack Holland

British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a direct appeal to President Bill Clinton on Wednesday to pressure the Irish government for concessions on police reform to bolster the position of embattled Unionist leader David Trimble, a reliable source said.

The call came as a leading Unionist, Ken Maginnis, warned that without a concession on policing. He did not think Trimble could recommend that his party accept Saturday’s IRA arms offer and pave the way for a return to power-sharing government.

Earlier this year, the Ulster Unionist Council, the party’s ruling body, passed a motion that the party should not go into government again unless Britain agreed to the retention of the RUC name. A name change was one of the many sweeping recommendations of the Patten Commission on policing reform. The issue has now replaced decommissioning as a potential deal breaker.

Sinn Fein spokesmen have warned that any dilution of Patten’s proposed reforms would be an "absolute disaster," in the words of one.

However, Trimble has said that without a victory on Patten, he can not go to the UUC, which is due to meet on May 20, to recommend the party return to government with Sinn Fein.

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Britain has said it will restore the devolved government on May 22. It is possible that the UUC would not choose to meet, which would likely precipitate another crisis in the peace process and possibly force Trimble’s resignation.

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