Proposed North forum must be `insulted' from talks-Bruton

 

THE Taoiseach stressed the need to "insulate" the proposed Northern Ireland forum from the negotiating process.

Mr Bruton said he would try to ensure this insulation was further strengthened in the practical arrangements remaining to be made for the June 10th negotiations.

"I am well aware of the concerns among nationalist parties in Northern Ireland that the elective process proposed by the British government may polarise opinions further," he said.

"In particular, I am aware of the concerns that the proposed forum could be exploited in some way as a rival focus to the negotiations or skew these negotiations towards an exclusively internal settlement."

When the PD leader, Ms Mary Harney, suggested it would be counterproductive for any party to boycott the elections, the Taoiseach said "I think it is important we should allow parties in Northern Ireland the space to make their own decisions on this important matter."

He said the over riding purpose" was to start inclusive negotiations, on June 10th.

When the Fianna Fail leader, Mr Bertie Ahern, suggested that all the Taoiseach was getting from the Ulster Unionist Party leader, Mr David Trimble, was "insults", the Taoiseach said he took a somewhat more thick skinned approach to such matters.

He regarded Mr Trimble's weekend remarks as "truly bizarre". (Mr Trimble had called for travel restrictions between Ireland and Britain and said the Irish Government must realise it could no longer export bombs along with its social problems to Britain.)

"I think they belong in some leprechaun's book of unusual Irish statements. They are certainly not serious. I have replied to them in that manner. I have no doubt that Mr Trimble has a sense of humour and perhaps he was endeavouring to exercise it on this occasion," the Taoiseach added.