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Paisley holds key talks with Taoiseach

By Noel McAdam

The future relationship between the Irish Government and the new Stormont administration was being discussed today as Ian Paisley met Bertie Ahern in Dublin.

And the contribution from the Republic towards the economic peace dividend was also believed to be on the agenda.

Dublin Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, who was also attending the Farmleigh House meeting, said there had been a "paradigm shift" in politics in the North.

The province's political parties had "grasped the opportunity of a lifetime", he said - although much work remained to be done.

A partnership government would lead to the creation of a society where " questions of identity, culture and tradition are no longer identified with discord and division, but are seen through a prism of tolerance, generosity and mutual respect", Mr Ahern added.

The meeting between Mr Paisley and Gerry Adams and their respective delegations last week had seen "a shift in the political paradigm of Northern Ireland".

"Restoration of the power-sharing institutions on May 8, as now agreed by the parties, will mark major progress, but it will not be the end of the road," he went on. The DUP leader has held formal talks with Taoiseach Mr Ahern a number of times in the recent past, including one in London, but today's meeting is the first since he confirmed his willingness to become First Minister.

Mr Paisley recently characterised the proposed contribution from the Irish exchequer, which could include funding for new roads linking the main Dublin corridor with Londonderry and Sligo, as potentially more generous than the extra funding on offer from Chancellor Gordon Brown.

The DUP wants to secure the help of the Irish Government in accessing European Union funds which could bolster the resources available to the new Executive.

"We will be keen to discuss the funds pledged by the Irish Finance Minister Brian Cowen," a source said.

"We expect to also discuss the relationship between the two administrations in Belfast and Dublin."

The DUP also wants to ensure that North-South bodies are more accountable to the Assembly, with their chairpersons likely to be summoned by the newly-formed departmental scrutiny committees if necessary.

In its Assembly election manifesto, the DUP pledged to work with Irish Ministers on matters of mutual concern, of benefit on both sides of the border - but also stressed the need to build up east-west institutions.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph