Northern Ireland parties try to fix fallout from feuds
July 16, 1999
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- Northern Ireland's feuding politicians met with Britain's senior representative Friday in hopes of restoring the process of forming a new Protestant-Catholic administration for the British-ruled province.
"What we have to do, I think, is now have a little space -- a little time to talk to the parties and find out the best way we can move forward," Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam said.
The meetings were a preliminary step toward next week's review of last year's Good Friday accords by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who chaired the 1998 peace talks that led to the agreement, also will join the meeting.
The Good Friday pact is aimed at ending three decades of political and sectarian strife in Northern Ireland. A coalition government was to have assumed power Sunday.
But implementing the agreement has been difficult because of longstanding mistrust between the largely Protestant Unionists -- who favor keeping Northern Ireland part of Britain -- and the mostly Catholic Republicans, who want the province to join the rest of Ireland.
Ahern and Blair expressed hope that a solution can still be found under the agreement's terms.
"People should not allow themselves to be deflected or disheartened," Ahern said.
Unionists holding out for IRA pledge
David Trimble's Ulster Unionists, Northern Ireland's major Protestant party, and two allied parties precipitated the deadlock Thursday, refusing to nominate members to seats in the 12-member Cabinet set up under the Good Friday agreement and which he is supposed to oversee.
Moderate Catholic leader Seamus Mallon, of the Social Democratic Labor Party, resigned his post as deputy first minister in protest, prompting the multi-party administration's collapse.
Trimble's party refused to participate in the government until the Irish Republican Army, which has fought British troops and Unionist paramilitaries for three decades, pledges to give up its arms.
"Our view is that the review should be tightly focused on something -- that is, focused on the key issues that have caused the difficulties, primarily on decommissioning and also on the question of devolution," Trimble said Friday.
But to Gerry Adams, leader of IRA political arm Sinn Fein, the Unionist move confirmed long-held fears among the largely Catholic Irish nationalists that Unionists -- mostly Protestants -- are unwilling to share power.
"There is no such thing as the Unionists ever having it on their own terms again, because whatever is worked out here has to be on the basis that it is acceptable to all sections of our people," Adams said.
Hard-line Unionist leader Ian Paisley, meanwhile, urged that no compromises be made without an IRA disarmament pledge.
"The way that it is to be implemented is that those that use or threaten violence are excluded and prisoners will be kept in unless violence is given up for good," said Paisley, whose Democratic Unionist Party opposed the Good Friday accord.
Correspondent Fionnuala Sweeney contributed to this report.
Northern Ireland peace accord put on hold
The Irish News
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