[Sinn Fein]

21st January 2003

Thursday meeting between Ahern and Blair - critical to future of process

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP this morning led a party delegation to meet with the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen. Also on the Sinn Fein delegation were Martin McGuinness MP, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA and Ard Chomhairle member Rita O'Hare.

Speaking following the meeting Mr. Adams said ``Thursday's meeting between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister will probably be the most crucial meeting yet in the peace process.'' During the meeting Mr. Adams spoke to the Taoiseach about `unhelpful' briefings which he believed were coming from government sources in relation to current difficulties. Mr. Adams said:

``We were very pleased to have met the Taoiseach this morning to discuss the urgent need to re-instate the political institutions and end the current impasse in the peace process. Other items which we discussed this morning were the recent government cutbacks in Irish language funding and the Electoral Office fiasco in the Six Counties which has led to the disenfranchisement of almost 200,000 people.

``We are at a very important point in the process and we are very concerned at the lack of progress and lack of substance in the discussions to date. The British government haven't shown a willingness, beyond rhetoric, to deal with outstanding matters. There is still no evidence that they are going to fulfil their obligations on a range of issues including policing, demilitarisation, human rights and equality.

``Thursday's meeting between the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair will probably be the most crucial meeting yet in the peace process.

``The outcome of this meeting will be pivotal in indicating whether it will be possible to move forward in the process at this time. And there is a huge responsibility on Tony Blair in this regard. We need to see an action plan from the British government for the implementation of the Agreement, including the substance of outstanding issues, timeframes and the management of the process to bring all of this about.

``There is a lot of work to be done and Sinn Fein's commitment to securing the successful implementation of the Agreement is absolute. Others need to engage in the process with the same urgency.''ENDS

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