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British and Irish leaders hopeful of NI breakthrough

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British and Irish leaders hopeful of NI breakthrough


There is no deal yet but the British and Irish leaders are hopeful talks on Northern Ireland’s political future will have a successful outcome. Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern have brought the province’s divided parties together in Scotland for make-or-break discussions on restoring the Stormont power-sharing assembly. Ian Paisley of the main pro-British unionist party said pro-Irish Republicans still have work to do: “My message to Sinn Fein is simply you have to deliver. We have nothing to give.”

Sinn Fein’s hand has been strengthened by a recent report by independent monitors that the IRA is committed to peace. Unionists consider Sinn Fein and the IRA one and the same thing. One of the major remaining sticking points is policing, with Unionists insisting Sinn Fein back Northern Ireland’s police force – a move it remains reluctant to make.

The governments have set a deadline of November 24 for the two sides to reach a deal. If they fail the local assembly could be put on ice for years.

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