» Thursday, December 9, 2004

Northern Ireland

Asked if there were any further meetings planned between the Prime Minister and the Irish Prime Minister in the immediate future, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that they would both be attending the European Council next week, but he was not aware of plans to meet before then.

Asked if there were going to be any bilateral discussions regarding Northern Ireland, the PMOS replied that Paul Murphy and Dermot Ahern would be meeting all the parties next week, and we and Dublin remain in constant contact with all the parties.

Asked if there was going to be any pessimism or confidence about what would happen in the future regarding the Northern Ireland issue, the PMOS said the important thing was that people had recognised the significance of the document that had been published. The reality was that out of a 22 page document, 21½ pages had been agreed. The other reality was that today, despite the inevitable blame game, three things still remained on the table. One was commitment by the IRA for complete decommissioning, the second was commitment by the IRA to end all activities, and finally, a commitment by the DUP to share power with Sinn Fein, if there was a genuine end to activities and a genuine decommissioning. That took us to a different place in Northern Ireland and what we needed to do now was to maintain the momentum and close the final gap.

Asked if it was accepted that the photograph issue was now dead as a means of clarification, the PMOS said that what was accepted was the gap had not been closed on that particular issue. We would keep working to see how we would make decommissioning credible. The PMOS reminded people it was only the day after the document was published, and people would therefore accept the public and parties in Northern Ireland would need time to reflect, as would the two governments.

Asked again if the photographs were not ruled out, the PMOS said it would be better to pause and reflect on where things were, and on the narrowness of the gap, and then move forward again.

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

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