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Date Posted: Fri, Sep 19 2003, 14:21:30 GMT
Subject: Trimble expets IRA gesture as breakthrough hopes rise
Trimble expects IRA gesture as breakthrough hopes rise
Mr David Trimble and Mr Gerry Adams have given their most positive signals to date of a potential political breakthrough that could lead to the restoration of the Northern Assembly and Executive, writes Gerry Moriarty and Arthur Beesley.
Mr Trimble, after meeting the Sinn Féin president Mr Adams yesterday, told party officers that he was anticipating movement from the IRA in the coming weeks.
A senior Ulster Unionist who attended Mr Trimble's briefing told The Irish Times last night that the UUP leader, in a "matter-of-fact manner", said he was expecting a significant gesture from the IRA shortly.
"There is definitely a move on, there is no doubt about that. David Trimble is anticipating things to happen in the coming weeks that could lead to an autumn election," he added.
The British and Irish governments have acknowledged that a breakthrough will chiefly depend on an IRA act of decommissioning and a commitment to end all activity, followed by a commitment from the UUP that with devolution restored it would not again collapse the institutions of the Belfast Agreement.
Mr Adams described his noon meeting with Mr Trimble yesterday as "useful" and indicated that a form of trust was developing between the two leaders. He said "strenuous efforts" were continuing to break the political logjam.
He gave little away about the detail of his encounter with the UUP leader but, significantly, said that if Mr Trimble gave his word about working the institutions that he would believe him.
"If Mr Trimble tells me he is going to sustain the institutions I will accept his word. I think that is what it comes down to, that there can be trust between people who want to work politically together in pursuit of stated objectives," he said. "If David Trimble says to me he is going to do something, as a person of honour I will accept his word of honour," he added.
Mr Adams effectively confirmed that the key issue of decommissioning and the IRA's ending of activity was being seriously addressed in these negotiations.
Asked about the IRA saying its "war is over" or agreeing to disband, he replied, "Well, I am not going to respond to that. I have just finished talking to the man (Mr Trimble)."
Speculation about major political movement in the coming weeks continues to increase. UTV reported last night that the "target date" for elections was November 13th and that a significant gesture by the IRA in the next two to three weeks could be followed by Mr Trimble calling a special Ulster Unionist Council meeting in October.
While the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Cowen, who met Northern Secretary Mr Paul Murphy in Dublin yesterday, said no specific date had been set for an election, he pointed to signs of political progress. "The Irish Government is encouraged by the contacts that we've been having, that people realise that there are responsibilities which have to be met on all sides," said Mr Cowen.
Mr Murphy said: "There's no question in my mind that there is a determination amongst the parties that they want devolution back, and they want to work together, despite the difficulties."
Asked about the Adams-Trimble meeting yesterday, Mr Murphy said he understood it went well.
© The Irish Times
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