Blair Announces Basis For Northern Ireland Accord
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the parties at Northern Ireland talks here have reached "the basis" for an agreement to be implemented in the coming months. The restoration of power sharing between Protestant and Catholic political parties, which has been suspended for four years, could take place by March 26, Blair said at a press conference with his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern. "I think there is a basis for moving forward. It is very difficult. People have to overcome very, very entrenched positions over a number of years," Blair said. "No one will find it easy or comfortable sitting in the executive with people with whom they'd once been deeply hostile," he said.
Bertie Ahern"On the basis of the text we will ask the parties to come back to us by the 10th of November," Blair said. "What essentially is happening here is that we are ensuring that before the 24th of November we have a fully worked out agreement, that that is enshrined in legislation," he said. Also by that date, there should be "the nomination of the first minister and deputy first minister in order to give everyone confidence that power sharing is to go ahead," he said. He said there will then be a period until March in which the parties will prepare for government. Ahern said: "I believe we have all the elements that can bring satisfaction to all the issues. If not perfect by everybody's agenda it's a fair and sustainable balance."