Governments make little progress on new ceasefire

 

THE British and Irish governments still have to surmount significant differences before a specific date for all party negotiations can be announced at next week's Anglo Irish summit.

The Irish Times has confirmed that little progress has been made to date on reaching agreement on the package of proposals which are being designed to reinstate the IRA ceasefire.

Following the 30 minute telephone conversation between Mr Bruton and Mr Major on Monday night, and the Anglo Irish officials' meeting on Tuesday, the components of the package on, the negotiating table are a summit a limited election and possibly a referendum, proximity talks and a fixed date for the commencement of all party talks.

The Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister hope to be in a position to set out the principles governing a broadly acceptable election process at the summit, now pencilled in for next Wednesday. These have yet to be agreed. It is intended that the models for an election would be worked out at the proximity talks proposed by the Government.

Informed sources have indicated that Mr Major is so preoccupied with the vote on the Scott report next Monday in the House of Commons that he is unlikely to apply himself to the package until next week.

This is leading to speculation in some quarters that agreement may not be reached by next Wednesday, thereby postponing the summit until the following week. Mr Major is due to attend the ASEAN summit next Thursday until the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Government spokesman said last night that the Ulster Unionist Party's proposals for a 90 member elected body in Northern Ireland would not seem to meet the test of widespread acceptance or the requirement of the three stranded relationship which is something the unionists have accepted in the past".

The situation is very serious, the spokesman added, "and we need the Unionist Party to make a serious effort at accommodation rather than engaging in elaborate debating points."

The Government noted, however, that the proposals were only a preferred option, that the document said that the Ulster Unionist Party wished to see full scale all party negotiations as soon as possible, and that the document said that the Mitchell report provided a blueprint for the way ahead.

The chairman of the international decommissioning body, Senator George Mitchell, will meet the Taoiseach, Mr Bruton, at 5 p.m. today. He will meet the Fianna Fail leader, Mr Bertie Ahern, tomorrow.

Although the Government envisages no formal role for Senator Mitchell as a peace envoy at this stage, Government sources indicated that his reflections on the current situation would be very interesting.

The Taoiseach and the Tanaiste had lunch with the SDLP leader, Mr John Hume, in Government Buildings yesterday.

The Government spokesman said afterwards that it was an important meeting in view of the intensification of efforts in setting a specific date for all party talks. The Government was determined to achieve procedures to deliver that result, he added.

The leader of the Progressive Democrats, Ms Mary Harney, said last night that the election plan outlined by, the UUP was "seriously defective". The only elective process that could even be entertained in Northern Ireland was one that would lead speedily and directly into all party negotiations and embody a role for the two governments.