» Friday, October 13, 2006

Northern Ireland

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) told journalists that the Prime Minister’s party had worked until late last night, and we had seen the parties last night. The parties then went away and reflected on where we were, and had come back this morning with the results. The PMOS said that he was not going to get into the details of what the responses to the reflections were. It was tough. It always was. However, we were still in business, and that was important, but the old cliché of having to wait and see still stood.

Asked if we were still planning to put a paper down today, and would it go into the public domain, and did it still involve the selection of shadow Ministers for the November deadline, the PMOS replied that we would put a paper down, and it would be public. With regards to the detail, people would have to wait and see.

Asked what the response was from the DUP, the PMOS said that he was not going to comment on the position of individual parties. However, the parties were being constructive, but he did not want to over-interpret people’s positions.

Asked to interpret the parties’ positions, the PMOS repeated that he was not going to do that. The PMOS said that the parties had been constructive. What was important was that we waited to see what the final document said. In terms of the parties, it was always the intention, and we knew how the parties worked, that leaderships should take away the conversation from here, and consult with their colleagues. Equally, however, we needed to know the results of that conversation, and we knew the timescale in which it needed to be done.

Asked again about the parties’ positions, the PMOS said that as everyone knew, there were two issues at the core of these discussions. One was: would the DUP sign up to power sharing, and the other was: would Sinn Fein sign up to supporting the police? As the PMOS had said, people were being constructive, and that should tell people where we were. As the PMOS had also said this week, if the two Prime Ministers believed that we were not making progress, then we would tell it as it was. The PMOS was not saying that, and he did not guarantee any outcome in advance, but people should see what would happen later on.

Asked to clarify if the document would be produced regardless of what was agreed, the PMOS said that in the end, this would be a document which the Governments would publish today, and that would definitely happen. The PMOS said that he would leave the parties to tell people what their response today was to that document. However, we also recognised their need to consult before they gave a panel judgement.

Asked if we were now looking at a process that would continue on into the afternoon, the PMOS replied that he was aware this might affect people’s travel plans, but he could not be precise as to when it would all end. It would take as long as it would take.

When asked about the Prime Minister’s role and the significance he attached to it, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had devoted many years to get us there. The Prime Minister believed that it was in the best interests of Northern Ireland. It was for the parties, however, the make that judgement of whether that would be the end result. The Prime Minister would try and facilitate that, and that was why he had spent two and a half days in St. Andrews, and it was also why he had spent so many hours on this issue. In the end, it was for the parties to decide.

Asked further about the parties’ conversations, the PMOS replied that parties chose who they would talk to, and the format was less important than the outcome.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news

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