Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble was today due to hold his fifth face-to-face meeting with Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams as efforts to revive the Northern Ireland Assembly continued.
The two leaders were due to hold talks in London as pressure mounted on republicans to sign up to British and Irish governments’ demands for an end to paramilitarism.
Former nationalist SDLP devolved minister Sean Farren last night became the latest politician in Northern Ireland to urge the Republican Movement to stand down the IRA.
The former Stormont finance minister told his constituency association in North Antrim: “Paramilitaries must meet the requirements set out in the joint declaration if progress towards an exclusively democratic and peaceful society is to be achieved.
“Complaints that too much attention is being given to this requirement have no substance.
“Five and a half years ago the Good Friday Agreement laid down what had to be done to achieve this goal but paramilitaries have been exceedingly slow to make their contribution.
“The continuing presence of paramilitaries is an affront to democracy and a threat to peace.”
Devolution in Northern Ireland was suspended last October amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering.
Efforts to restore the power sharing government and Assembly at Stormont failed earlier this year when the IRA was unable to come up with a clear declaration that it was abandoning paramilitarism for good.
In May, British Prime Minister Tony Blair cancelled Assembly elections because he believed without an IRA declaration there would not be a workable executive.
At the same time, the British and Irish governments set out their plans for implementing the Good Friday Agreement in full.
Their programme included moves on the scaling down of the Army presence in Northern Ireland, policing and criminal justice reforms and other issues of importance to all sides in the peace process.
In particular, they stressed the need for all paramilitaries including the IRA to end recruiting, training, targeting, intelligence gathering, weapons procurement and involvement with all forms of intimidation and violence.
After the peaceful summer, Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionists, the British and Irish governments and other pro-Good Friday Agreement parties have tried to create the conditions for a new Assembly.
However there has been pressure on Sinn Féin and republicans to insure the IRA signs up to paragraph 13 of the joint declaration released by London and Dublin in May which addresses the ending of all paramilitary activity.
During a visit to the Labour Party Conference in Bournemouth yesterday Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness again criticised some opponents for “focusing solely” on what was required of the IRA.
The Mid-Ulster MP insisted both governments and the Ulster Unionists had issues to face up to in the negotiations and he called for an election date to be set as a catalyst for political progress.
The leader of the cross community Alliance Party, David Ford also yesterday insisted republicans must not be allowed to evade their responsibility to stand down their paramilitary organisation.
And in a speech last night to East Belfast Ulster Unionists, Mr Trimble again insisted it was time republicans endorsed the Good Friday Agreement as a whole.
The Upper Bann MP said: “It is, of course, also time that they followed through by finally acting in an exclusively peaceful and democratic manner.
“The Assembly is still suspended and we cannot say whether that suspension will be lifted this month, this year or whenever.
“Yet it is clear that we are approaching the end of the transition, the end of the overlong implementation of the Agreement.
“As always we cannot be sure if the transition will be successfully concluded. It is still possible that the republicans will be unable or unwilling to take leave finally of violence and paramilitarism.”