» Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Northern Ireland

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) advised journalists that the Prime Minister would be in Belfast today. He would have lunch with the Taoiseach, following which there would be meetings with the parties – the DUP, SDLP, UUP, Alliance, PUP, Sinn Fein and UKUP. A press conference would take place later this afternoon.

Asked the purpose of the visit today, the PMOS said that the two Prime Ministers were going to Belfast in an effort to inject some momentum into the process. The meetings were not expected to run on late into the evening, as they had done on occasions in the past. Nor were any immediate announcements expected. The two leaders would want to take the opportunity to underline that paramilitary activity had to stop because only then could power-sharing be re-established. The most important signal from today was the two Prime Ministers’ determination to keep pushing for a resolution. We were in the middle of a review period. However, they were determined to ensure that a vacuum did not develop because of the obvious dangers that would entail. Questioned as to whether we were looking for movement from the IRA, the PMOS said that we were looking to address all the outstanding issues. By the end of the day, we hoped to have a clearer understanding of how we could take things forward than at the beginning.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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