No stalling of all-party talks, Bruton and Major promise

 

THE Taoiseach, Mr Bruton, and the British Prime Minister, Mr Major, have given assurances that no delaying tactics would prevent the launch of all-party talks.

They were speaking at a press conference at 10 Downing Street yesterday after issuing the joint communique. A notable feature of the press conference was the agreement and clarity between the two leaders on the procedures ahead.

Opening the press conference Mr Major said the appalling acts of terrorism a fortnight ago had emphatically not broken the peace process. "We are determined not to allow terrorism to interfere with the democratic process. Both of us condemn, with out reservation, the IRA's breaking of the ceasefire and both of us seek its immediate restoration.

Until that ceasefire was restored, Mr Major said both governments made clear that there would be no ministerial talks with Sinn Fein nor could Sinn Fein take part in negotiations.

Turning to the main points of the communique, Mr Major said issues remained to be resolved over the next few weeks. They were committed to an elective process leading to all party negotiations without further preconditions.

Those negotiations would start on June 10th. The precise nature of the elective process was yet to be determined. There were strong views about this, including the precise form of the electoral system, the nature and role of an elected body and the agenda of that structure for the negotiations themselves.

Mr Major said in order to make progress on this and other points, there would be intensive negotiations with the parties, starting next Monday and continuing for 10 days. The British government, after these negotiations, would then bring forward legislation to enable the elections to be held, "based on what we judge is the process likely to find the widest support amongst the political parties".

They also sought to build confidence. They agreed that at the beginning of the negotiations, all parties would need to make clear their commitment to democracy and non violence, as set out in Senator Mitchell's report. At that stage, they would also need to address the Mitchell report's proposals on decommissioning.

Mr Major added that it had been suggested that referendums would be held in Northern Ireland and the Republic, possibly on the same day as the election itself. "We will listen carefully to the views expressed and come to a determination in the light of these views."

In his opening remarks, Mr Bruton said both leaders unreservedly condemned the murder oils attacks in London which cost the lives of three people. They expressed their deepest regret and sympathy to the families. The Irish people of all persuasions were determined to respond, not just with condemnations and sympathy.

They were determined to remove, once and for all, the cause which led to this violence. They were determined that the differences that existed should be resolved by political and democratic methods.

When he met Mr Major on November 28th, they determined to provide a mechanism to ensure that this happened. They resolved then to launch all party negotiations "at a meeting here today".

"We are launching a process leading to a fixed date, June 10th, for all party negotiations. We are determined that all of the parties will be there on that occasion. For some of the parties to be there, it is necessary that violence stops."

Mr Bruton said the main obstacle that existed in the past was the absence of a firm date for all party negotiations. They had agreed now on that firm date. They had agreed on a process of various procedures between now and then but none of these procedures would be allowed to delay them from commencing negotiations on June 10th.

Asked if their communique had been spurred on by the London bombings, Mr Bruton said they were there to do what they said they would do in November. Their timetable had neither been advanced nor accelerated by the intrusion of violence. In fact violence had done nothing but create difficulties in the process they were engaged in.

Mr Major, answering the same question, said precisely the reverse had happened. The attempts by the two democratic governments had been put off track by the violence.

Mr Major also said the British government would be prepared to receive messages from Sinn Fein at official level as the multilateral talks process got under way next week.

Mr Bruton said the IRA had made it impossible for Sinn Fein to take part in next week's multilateral talks. What they needed to do was to reinstate the ceasefire to enable Sinn Fein to participate in all party negotiations. He confirmed that the talks could not take place with Sinn Fein unless there was a ceasefire.

Mr Major was then asked if Sinn Fein's access to all party talks was conditional only on the restoration of the ceasefire. He said they had set out quite clearly that until there was a ceasefire, and the moment discussions between the parties began, there had got to be a discussion about the Mitchell report in all its aspects, dealing with adherence to the principles and dealing with the question of decommissioning "to the satisfaction of the parties." That would be the first item on the agenda.

Mr Bruton, in response to the same question, said he recognised that confidence building measures would be necessary. All participants would need to make clear at the beginning of the discussions their total and absolute commitment to the principles of democracy and non violence set out in the Mitchell report. They would also need to address, at that stage, the Mitchell proposals on decommissioning.

Confidence building would also require that the parties had reassurance that a meaningful and inclusive process of negotiations was genuinely being offered to address the legitimate concerns of their traditions and the need for new political arrangements with which all could identify, said Mr Bruton.