Foundation for North settlement built, says Tanaiste


A FOUNDATION has been built in the search for a solution to the Northern Ireland conflict despite the slow pace of the multi party talks so far, according to the Tanaiste.

Speaking after what was probably his last meeting with Sir Patrick Mayhew in the Anglo Irish Conference yesterday, Mr Spring said he believed the problem was "a lot closer to resolution" than it was when they held their first meeting.

"I don't think anyone involved in politics can expect quick results," he said. But through the talks he believed a lot of the mistrust, fear and bitterness were being overcome.

He hoped that when the talks resumed on June 3rd after the British general election there would be "a new sense of urgency and mission". When the parties returned to the table, "I hope they will have the courage and confidence to make the compromises necessary".

In response to a question at his press conference, Sir Patrick said it was not for him to say whether he had failed to take an opportunity for peace. He was confident that a resolution to the problems of Northern Ireland would come, but "I don't know when", he said.

Mr Spring and Sir Patrick also discussed their differences about how to defuse tension during the coming marching season in the North, the conditions of detention of Ms Roisin McAliskey and the demand for a new inquiry into or British government apology for the events of Bloody Sunday. Little progress was made on those issues, however.

Sir Patrick repeated that the British government's period of consultation over whether to implement the full recommendations of the North report on the conduct of marches would be completed at the end of this month. He said he hoped to announce shortly the composition of the commission recommended in the report to have a role in defusing tension over controversial marches.

His government accepted that the commission should have advisory and conciliatory functions, he said. A decision on whether it should also have powers to adjudicate on controversial parades would be taken when the consultation period ended.

Referring to the case of Ms McAliskey, Sir Patrick said that a bail application on her behalf had been adjourned pending the receipt of answers to a number of questions sent to the British Crown Prosecution Service, which, he said, was "totally independent".

Mr Spring presented Sir Patrick with a number of gifts to mark his last meeting as co chair of the Anglo Irish Conference. These included a collection of essays Cork, History and Society, an illustrated book Ancient Ireland.