Ahern, Blair want restoration of Assembly by the Autumn

 

The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern and the British Prime Minister Mr Blair have launched a fresh attempt to restore the political process in Northern Ireland.

The Taoiseach and the Prime Minister issued a joint statement after holding talks in Dublin stressing the need to "create the conditions for the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland on a stable and durable basis".

"It  is our firm, shared believe," the statement continues "that this can be achieved.  To this end, we hope  that  there  will  be  intensive  political  dialogue  following  the forthcoming elections.  In the meantime, we will continue our contacts with the parties, and we will explore all opportunities for making progress."

The  two leaders said that issues  surrounding "paramilitarism  and  associated criminality"  must be addressed  and said it was "long past time to deal with them once and for all".

The Joint statement said that reports from the International Monitoring Commission   (IMC)   and   the   Independent  International  Commission  on Decommissioning  (IICD)  would continue to play "a key part in assessing the progress  being  made,  and on what remains to be done" across the range of their respective remits.

Speaking on the steps of Government Buildings this morning, Mr Ahern said that after holding talks with the parties he believed the suspended Assembly and Executive could be back up and running by October.

"We are determined to achieve a basis for the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland as soon as possible," he said.

"It is our assured sense that an outcome can be achieved that will allow restoration of these arrangements."

Mr Ahern said both he and Mr Blair had developed a road map for the way ahead and said he honestly believed that both the Assembly and Executive could be resurrected. "If we are not in that position by autumn it would be a very serious position," he said.

Mr Blair stressed the two governments would not achieve that alone. "We can only do so much. We need a real willingness from the parties to put themselves on the line and step up to the mark."

He said the problem was not just about persuading paramilitaries to give up their arms.  "It is about more than simply decommissioning. It is about whether people can be sure there is a genuine cessation of all types of violence.  It is not about decommissioning a certain amount of weaponry. It is more profound than that."

He added that devolved government could not be allowed to fail again. "Everybody recognises that the next time we get this situation of institutions up and running that has to be it.  People do not want another six months then it collapses again."