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Statement issued by Ulster Unionist Party in response to the 1 April Declaration

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Text: Martin Melaugh ... Research: Fionnuala McKenna
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Statement issued by Ulster Unionist Party on 2 April 1999, in response to the 1 April Declaration.

"The Declaration made by Prime Minister Blair and Prime Minister Ahern on Thursday 1st April is a basis upon which further negotiations will take place, when talks resume on April 13th. It is not a final agreement.

Whilst it establishes key principles there are a number of areas that are unsatisfactory and need clarification.

The declaration confirms two key points:

1. Decommissioning is an obligation under the Agreement to be completed by May 2000.

2. No member of Sinn Féin can be a member of the devolved Executive without the IRA having started decommissioning. (Government has produced new standing orders for the Assembly to this effect. While the d’hondt formula will be applied initially to identify those who will become Ministers on the transfer of power, they will not be in Office until then i.e. after the act of devolution. There will be no shadow Executive before the beginning of devolution.)

This clearly vindicates the Ulster Unionist Party’s views on the decommissioning of terrorist weapons under the Agreement. The Ulster Unionist Party will honour its commitment to the Unionist people on this issue. Our view remains that there must be a credible and verifiable beginning to the process of decommissioning illegal weapons by the IRA before they can take seats in the Executive.

There are obviously other points of detail and controversy to be hammered out when Talks resume later this month.

The Ulster Unionist Party has fought long and hard to get the IRA and the loyalists groups to disarm. We have the clear support of both Mr Blair and Mr Ahern for our position. Their declaration confirms this. No other Unionist Party has made any significant effort to help us achieve decommissioning

Much detail and hard negotiating still lies ahead. We must now finish the job. We have not run away from our responsibilities to the people. On April 13th we will return to Talks and continue to press on to get what is needed to achieve lasting peace and stability in Northern Ireland."

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