British, Irish governments draft power-sharing proposal
January 12, 1998
Web posted at: 2:23 p.m. EST (1923 GMT)
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- All the political key players in the Northern Irish peace process resumed talks on Monday at Stormont Castle as both the Irish and British governments agreed on proposals aimed at overcoming the sectarian divide and decades of violence in the British province.
Officials said delegates from all the main pro-British
Unionist and Republican parties, as well as the political
leaders of guerrillas on both sides of the conflict, attended
Monday's talks, despite four factional killings in recent
The British and Irish governments agreed to proposals that
reportedly outlined new power-sharing structures involving
London, Dublin and Belfast. The proposals were now to be
presented to the round-table talks.
"It is a sketch of what the (eventual) agreement might look
like," said an Irish source. "What this is supposed to do is
to pave the way for detailed negotiations."
The blueprint is thought to include proposals for a new
Northern Ireland Assembly -- a council linking London and
Dublin -- and new island-wide structures.
It should in effect be an agenda for talks that have been
mired in inter-party rivalry and overshadowed by guerrilla
violence for 18 months.
"We are now looking at something ... which they can get their
teeth into," a British source said.
The agreement was reached after intense diplomacy. British
Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke to his Irish counterpart,
Bertie Ahern, eight times by telephone in the past 24 hours,
Irish Foreign Minister David Andrews said Monday.
|Andrews comments on Northern Ireland's agenda
170K/15 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
Tension rose after Christmas with four murders by Republican
Catholic and rival Unionist Protestant militias who oppose
the peace process.
The latest victim, Terry Enwright, a 28-year-old Catholic,
was shot dead by the pro-British Protestant Loyalist
Volunteer Force (LVF) early on Sunday at a Belfast nightclub
where he was a doorman.
He was married to a niece of one of the province's key
political leaders, Gerry Adams, who heads the Sinn Fein
political wing of the outlawed Irish Republican Army, which
has maintained a truce in its fight against British rule
since last July.
The killing cast a further cloud over talks that have been
mired in acrimony since they opened in June 1996.
British Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam visited the
Maze top security prison last Friday for talks with convicted
loyalist guerrillas who had dealt the peace process a blow by
withdrawing their long-held support for it.
The visit paid dividends when the prisoners agreed to give
renewed backing for the talks.
Arriving for the talks, Progressive Unionist Party leader
David Ervine, who had earlier threatened to walk out, said he
believed Blair's initiative could push the process forward.
"There is an opportunity, perhaps with what has happened
over the weekend with the intervention of Tony Blair from
Japan, to concentrate people's minds on the issues," Ervine
He conceded that aspirations on neither the Unionist side,
which wants to maintain British sovereignty, nor the
Republican side, which wants unity with Ireland, could ever
be fully satisfied.
"Therefore there has to be a dropping of sides and
realization that we all can have some of what we want, though
we can't have all of what we want," he said.
The Irish government, supported by minority Catholic
nationalists, wants powerful cross-border institutions, which
could blur the 75-year-old border.
Majority Protestants who want continued firm links with
London are opposed to anything that smacks of Dublin
"interference" in how Northern Ireland should be governed.