» Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Northern Ireland

Asked about the possibility of trying another route should the talks on Northern Ireland at Leeds Castle next week fail, the PMOS said that as the Prime Minister had told journalists this morning, he did not think it would be helpful to start talking about Plan B when we were still trying to get Plan A to work. As he had made clear, we needed to be able to judge whether progress was going to be made or not. That meant asking whether we were going to see an end to paramilitarism, whether we were going to see decommissioning – and if so, whether the Unionists would agree to share power with the elected representatives of Nationalism and Republicanism. As he had underlined at Lancaster House in July, at some point we would need to come to a decision as to whether to keep travelling down the road we were currently going down, or whether we needed to do something different to take the process forward. Asked if the Prime Minister was considering the possibility of abandoning the Northern Ireland Assembly if the talks at Leeds Castle were not successful, the PMOS said that he did not think it would be helpful to get drawn into a discussion about specifics. No one should underestimate the importance of the talks next week. We believed that the parameters existed for a deal to be done. The key question was whether the will was there. If, at the end of the process, we concluded the answer was no, then obviously we would have to reflect on how to take the process forward. The Prime Minister was absolutely determined that the momentum we had seen until now should continue in some form because it had already had a positive impact in terms of bringing the conflict to an end in Northern Ireland. That being said, the talks at Leeds Castle had yet to take place. We hoped that a deal could be done there because we believed that such a thing was possible.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

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