British, Irish leaders move to break Northern Ireland impasse
July 2, 1999
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- With talks on salvaging a historic peace accord for Northern Ireland stalled, the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland proposed a bold plan Friday to break the deadlock.
The proposal, which they termed "a way forward," would turn over rule of the province to a new joint government in mid July, followed within days by the disarming of paramilitaries and guerrilla forces.
A passionate British Prime Minister Tony Blair pleaded with Catholic and Protestant negotiators to accept the plan, calling it a "last hope" for peace.
Sources close to the negotiations, which have extended nearly two days after a midnight Wednesday deadline, say nominations for a 12-member Cabinet could be made within a few weeks.
After that, the surrender of arms would be overseen by Canadian Gen. John de Chastelain, the head of the International Commission on Decommissioning, the body set up to monitor disarmament of Northern Ireland's sectarian militias.
The plan calls for all weapons to be decommissioned by May 2000.
Part of the proposal calls for sanctions on either side if they fail to meet the terms. The proposal remained on the table after hours of talks without being rejected -- but with no guarantees that any side would accept it.
Protestants and Catholics adjourned the talks Friday evening for further consultations on the plan.
The disarmament of the paramilitary groups -- principally the Irish Republican Army, but also pro-British Unionists and republican splinter groups -- has remained a sticking point in the talks over the last five days.
Paul Bew, who studies Irish politics at Queen's University, Belfast, said the agreement provides some insurance that both sides will comply with disarmament.
"The difficulties exist partly when it comes down to trust," Bew told CNN. "Not between the Unionists and the Republicans -- everyone knows there's no trust there -- but between the Unionists and the British government."
The discussions are aimed at setting up a power-sharing cabinet-style government that would take over administration of Northern Ireland from London.
Northern Ireland talks suspended until Friday
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.