Monday, March 20, 2006

Northern Ireland Briefing: Good Friday Looms Large

Politics in Northern Ireland may appear to be at a standstill, but below the surface there is frantic activity. Sinn Fein and the DUP have been involved in intensive negoiations with both governments in order to find a way forward. Tony Blair is determined to secure a legacy in Northern Ireland after failure in the middle-east. He has cancelled two visits to the province this year because he feared all the pieces weren't in place for a deal.

The blue-print for a way forward was outlined to President Bush last week during the St Patrick's day festivities. Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern are also due to meet at the European Council, in Brussels, this week.

The governments are determined to find a way forward before Good Friday, even suggesting that they will press ahead without all parties agreeing to their proposals. But it is difficult to see how any plan could work without the consent of Sinn Fein and the DUP.

The SDLP and the UUP have been consulted on the blue-print, but to a lesser extent. Many believe that NIO's long term plan has been to find compromise between the political extremes in Northern Ireland. It is only in acheiving this that political stabilty can be more than a flash-in-the-pan.


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