Blair and Ahern attempt to revive Northern Ireland peace process
Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will attempt to reinvigorate the stalled review of the Good Friday Agreement when they meet leaders from the Northern Ireland political parties today.
The Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended in October 2002, following accusations of intelligence gathering at Stormont by the IRA.
Following the November 2003 elections to the Assembly, which saw the DUP succeed the UUP as the largest unionist party, and Sinn Fein succeed the SDLP as the largest nationalist party, the decision to hold a review of the Good Friday Agreement was taken – which was due to begin in February and to last until around Easter.
However, from the outset, the DUP refused to participate – due to the involvement of Sinn Fein – and shortly after the review began, the UUP pulled out, over the alleged “false imprisonment” by the IRA of a dissident.
On March 2, UUP leader David Trimble declared, “Until we get a positive response on this matter we are not going to participate further in the paragraph 8 review.”
As a result, the planned round table talks will now not take place.
Instead, the leaders of the parties will meet individually with Messrs Blair and Ahern, in a series of sessions at Hillsborough Castle in County Down.