UUP says no deal on executive with SF before decommissioning

 

Senior Ulster Unionist figures last night insisted there is no secret deal which will let Sinn Fein into the power-sharing executive without prior decommissioning by the Provisional IRA.

Speculation about the UUP softening its position increased over the weekend as Mr David Trimble issued an unprecedented invitation to Sinn Fein to talks tomorrow to help break the impasse. The attempts to find a compromise come as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Northern Secretary meet today in Dublin Castle to sign four treaties establishing the institutions central to the Belfast Agreement.

The treaties - setting up the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, the British-Irish Council, the North-South Ministerial Council and the North-South Implementation Bodies - will be followed by legislation in the Dail and Westminster, probably later this week.

Once the legislation is passed, all the conditions for the implementation of the Belfast Agreement will have been met, except the formation of the Northern executive. Mr Trimble will be accompanied by the UUP deputy leader, Mr John Taylor, when he meets Mr Gerry Adams and Mr Martin McGuinness at Stormont tomorrow. A senior UUP source said that while Provisional IRA decommissioning and Sinn Fein's entry into the executive could be "timed carefully so no side would be seen to have surrendered", decommissioning would have to take place.

"The two events could happen on the same day so nobody is seen to lose face," the source said.

However, Sinn Fein appears to be no nearer a compromise. In an article to be published in this week's Irish Voice in New York, Mr Adams says: "Mr Trimble is pushing the entire process to the cliff edge. Mr Trimble is rewriting the agreement. He knows this. So do the two governments."

But Irish Government sources indicated last night that the UUP is genuinely attempting to "make space" for Sinn Fein, and predicted a "heightened level of activity" over the next week.

Meanwhile, the North's Deputy First Minister, Mr Seamus Mallon, insisted republicans had room to move on decommissioning.

A former Catholic priest who was involved in secret talks between the Provisionals and the British government also urged Sinn Fein to compromise on decommissioning. Mr Denis Bradley accused the party of being out of date and out of touch with public opinion on the issue.

Frank Millar, London Editor, adds:

Senior Ulster Unionists last night declared themselves satisfied that the wording of the treaties establishing the cross-Border bodies meant the new North-South structures would not survive the collapse of the Assembly.

Although it was thought Mr Trimble had concluded an agreement with the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, at their meeting in Dublin on Thursday, it is understood the wording was finally agreed only yesterday. Mr Mallon and Mr Adams are both believed to have pressed strongly for a treaty establishing that the cross-Border bodies would continue in being even if the Assembly collapsed.

But although it is not considered explicit, unionist sources say today's agreement is to be read in conjunction with the original agreement, and that the preamble to the treaty makes clear that institutions established under the Belfast Agreement are "interlocking and inter-dependent".