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4 November 1999 Edition

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Back issue: Nothing New from Atkins

AFTER MONTHS of finding his feet, and after weeks of long negotiations with political parties in the North, direct ruler Humphrey Atkins unveiled the long-awaited British government initiative to the House of Commons on 25 October. And when the curtain was finally opened nothing new was there.

All Atkins announced was the publication in two weeks' time of a consultative document which lays the basis for a conference in late November. To that conference will be invited representatives from the Official Unionist Party, Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party, the Alliance Party and, of course, Gerry Fitt and the SDLP. On the agenda will be four different options for the restoration of local powers and political structures, plans little different from [Roy] Mason's offer of interim devolution which was rejected by these same parties last year.

There was an immediate cool reaction from most of the four parties concerned, the exception being the excitable Alliance Party leader, Oliver Napier.

James Molyneaux of the OUP caused a stir when he unexpectedly declared that the OUP will boycott the talks, which he dismissed as a ``time-wasting, window-dressing excercise designed to get the government off the hook of decision-making''. His announcement made him appear even more hardline than Paisley, who did not reject outright the possibility of attendance.

An Phoblacht, Saturday 3 November 1979


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