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Progress in N. Ireland peace talks

THE LEADER of Ulster’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the Revd Dr Ian Paisley, was due to visit Dublin for the first time formally for political talks yesterday. This is being interpreted as a thawing of relations between the party and the government of the Republic.

Since outstripping David Trimble’s Ulster Unionist Party at the assembly elections to become the largest political party representing the Protestant voice in the province, the DUP’s deputy leader, Peter Robinson, has been interpreted as taking a more pragmatic line in negotiations between the party and the Republicans under Sinn Féin.

After the failure of both governments and all the main parties in Northern Ireland to agree at Leeds Castle on restarting the Assembly, Dr Paisley promised that he would not abandon the talks. This has given hope to his historic opponents, as well as to Tony Blair and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.

Both have impressed on the DUP their belief that the Leeds Castle talks have provided a basis for the IRA finally to put the remainder of its arms "beyond use".

It was understood that, during the historic meeting in the government buildings in Dublin, Mr Ahern would also stress the need for a genuine and stable commitment to power-sharing.

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