31 October 2002 Edition

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Leinster House bilateral meetings "useful and constructive"

Sinn Féin Dáil group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin described a series of bilateral meetings hosted by the party's five TDs, at which Sinn Féin Six-County Assembly members met with Senators and TDs from all parties in Leinster House last Thursday to discuss the current crisis and the issue of northern representation in the Oireacthas, as "useful and constructive".

Before the meetings, Sinn Féin Assembly member Conor Murphy, reacting to news that John Reid had been replaced as Secretary Of State, said: "What matters is British policy in Ireland not personalities.

"Whoever takes over from John Reid needs to be proactive in addressing all the outstanding issues relating to the Agreement and to produce a plan for its full implementation."

After the meetings, Ó Caoláin said: "These meetings took place against the backdrop of the British government's suspension of the institutions and the ongoing attacks from loyalists on the nationalist community.

"We explained that a vacuum had now been opened up and indeed deepened in the last few days as a result of Tony Blair's actions and that it must be filled with positive political developments in the coming days, weeks and months.

"We reaffirmed to our colleagues in Leinster House that Sinn Féin is committed to ensuring the full and faithful implementation of the agreement in its entirety. And that includes the resolution of the issue of armed groups along with the issues of policing, demilitarisation, human rights and equality.

"We have asked that all parties do all in their power to get the British and Irish government to produce a plan to ensure the full and faithful implementation of all aspects of the Agreement. We are hoping that today's bilateral meetings will be the beginning of a series of such meetings that will eventually enable us all to develop a truly all-Ireland parliamentary programme of work."

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