» Thursday, May 19, 2005

Northern Ireland

Asked if there was any insight into the Northern Ireland Talks, especially Reverend Paisley’s comments about a fresh start the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said, as a quick reminder of where we were, that the two key principles were a complete end to all paramilitary and criminal activity by the IRA and then if that happened a commitment by Unionists to sharing power. Therefore, yes what we were looking for was a fresh start based on those two key principles. The key to that at the moment was the response of the IRA to Gerry Adam’s comments at the start of the election campaign. This was what we were waiting for. Obviously what we would be asking Gerry Adams today was what was his assessment of where the republican movement was going.

In response to the suggestion that Reverend Paisley’s comments seemed to suggest that there were no circumstances for power sharing the PMOS said that what he had said was that until there was a genuine stop to all paramilitary and criminal activity by the IRA he would not engage with Sinn Fein nor move forward to a settlement. We agreed with him on that. We agreed absolutely that there must be a complete and genuine end to paramilitary and criminal activity. If there was however, then equally we believed that Unionists would and should deliver on their commitment to power sharing.

Asked if there was any expectation of a further IRA statement by the end of the month the PMOS said that he did not want to put a timetable on it because it was not up to us to control it. The IRA had said that they were engaged in a consultation process and given the significance of the announcement it was common sense to suggest that that may take some time. How long that would be we did not know, but one of the things the Prime Minister would be asking Gerry Adams today was what his assessment was of the mood within the republican movement.

Asked whether the two issues of the bank robbery and the McCartney murder were now effectively in the past the PMOS said that the police investigations into those matters would continue. It would be wrong for him to give a running commentary on those investigations except to say that the Chief Constable had our full support in pushing the investigations and devoting as much resources as necessary to solving those matters. What was important was not only that people said that there was a stop to activity, but that it was actually seen in practice. This was precisely the role of the independent monitoring commission to report on whether all paramilitary and associated criminal activity was stopped.

Briefing took place at 17:00 | Search for related news

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