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10 December 1998 Edition

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Progress needed before Christmas

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuiness met with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday and impressed upon him the need for positive movement in the political process before the Christmas break.

The essential next steps in the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement are the establishment of departments along with the Executive and all-Ireland implementation bodies.

These bodies, which must have wide and substantive powers to deal with issues such as the Irish language, economic development and tourism, need to be set up speedily.

Following his meeting with Tony Blair, Martin McGuinness pointed out that ``any agreement on these issues can only take effect when the actual structures laid down in the Agreement are set up. So the immediate need for the Executive and the all-Ireland ministerial council to be formed is glaringly obvious.''

What has prevented progress so far is the application, once again, of the unionist veto. David Trimble's UUP, already in breach of the Good Friday Agreement by preventing the establishment of a shadow Executive, are now attempting to dilute the substance of the all-Ireland bodies.

There is a major responsibility on the Irish and British governments to defend the Agreement and ensure its implementation. For hope in the process to be maintained the current impasse must be resolved before Christmas.

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