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8 March 2001 Edition

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Don't believe the hype

Sinn Féin took a dim view last night of speculation that a deal can be reached on how to move the peace process forward, following the announcement that round table talks are due to take place at Hillsborough later today.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair last night announced that they will be holding separate meetings with all the parties, to be followed by round-table talks.

Ahern had expressed pessimism earlier on in the week about the prospects for progress. He said that unless talks resumed immediately, there was little hope for movement on the issues of contention between the British Government and the parties.

Sinn Féin chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, responding to the annoucement of fresh talks, said that his focus would remain firmly on the failure of the British Government to deliver on commitments they made in May last year.

``I have listened very carefully to David Trimble's half-baked truths about what happened last May, about the IRA not meeting its commitments,'' he said. ``He knows that agreement was only reached then on the basis of British Government commitments to demilitarisation and to implementing Patten in full. They have failed to honour those commitments. That's where we're at and that's what has to be resolved.''

Sinn Féin laid the blame for the current crisis squarely at the feet of Tony Blair and the British government. It said the party has been involved in intensive negotiations with the British government almost every day since the New Year and that those negotiations had focused on attempting to get Tony Blair to deliver on the commitments he made last May.

There are four issues that remain unresolved according to the party. These are: policing, demilitarisation, the issue of weapons and the permanency of the institutions. In recent negotiations the British government have failed to make any effort to bridge the gap between their current stance and the stance they took last May. If this remained the case, the party said, Tony Blair might as well stay at home.
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