Despite this, however, and three hours of talks between the Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams, and the Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, there’s no sign of any breakthrough.
Internal talks are taking place within the UUP, but few hold out much hope of the party uniting behind the Good Friday agreement.
There are concerns within nationalism, meanwhile, that the British government may move to remove any Dublin influence in the proposed International Monitoring Commission intended to ensure that all parties keep their commitments under the agreement.
British Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy said the IMC’s members could be announced within weeks. One of its members is due to be appointed by Dublin, one by London, one by the United States and a fourth is expected to come from the North itself.
The IMC, originally demanded by the UUP, is due to monitor paramilitary activity. It will also, however, ensure all parties in the power-sharing Executive abide by the agreement.
Speaking at the weekend, Murphy acknowledged Unionist concerns over the role of the Irish government and hinted efforts were being made to address them.
“I think I can understand the issues that various people are dealing with,” he said. “It’s a very sensitive area, and when we draw up arrangements for this body, we will take that into account. I think that when people see the detail of the proposals, they won’t be disappointed.”
Former Ulster Unionist deputy leader John Taylor has warned he would oppose any moves to nominate a representative from the Irish government to the IMC with any role in the Stormont assembly. If the IMC “supervises the activities of assembly members and parties in the assembly” before recommending what measures should be taken, he said, it would potentially punish “individual elected members of the Stormont Assembly.”
This could include those “who are not working all the institutions of the agreement, such as DUP members who refuse to serve in the Executive or UUP members boycotting the North-South ministerial meetings.”
“This is a clear breach of Strand One of the Belfast agreement, which specifically excluded Dublin from any role within the assembly,” he said.
The idea of the IMC arose after UUP accusations of continuing IRA involvement in paramilitary activity. Sinn Fein said a sanctions mechanism already exists to deal with breaches, while the SDLP believes the IMC could play a role in resolving the political crisis.
The DUP, however, remains steadfast in its opposition to the agreement. Nigel Dodds, the MP for North Belfast, said: “The problem is not that the IRA continues to be wedded to violence, but that the agreement creates an unstable, unaccountable, inefficient and ineffective form of government.”
Meanwhile a senior Ulster Unionist, David McNarry, has gone on the offensive against Jeffrey Donaldson for recent statements made by the anti-agreement MP.
“Is Jeffrey Donaldson finally preparing to ‘out’ himself on taking over the leadership of the UUP? Has he been so flattered in his talks with Sinn Fein that he believes he can cut a deal with them once Trimble is out of the loop?” McNarry asked.
Donaldson denied the claim of talks between Donaldson and Sinn Fein.