[Sinn Fein]

12 November 1997

`Alarm' over lack of movement

Speaking in Leinster House today Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin expressed alarm over the lack of progress in the Stormont negotiations and at the lack of movement on prisoners and demilitarisation.

Welcoming the Taoiseach's response to his question on whether he would visit the Stormont negotiations Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

``I am glad he has confirmed that he will be visiting the negotiations. This is very important in asserting the common ownership of the talks by all the parties and both governments.''

Referring to lack of progress in the peace process Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

``Would he agree that the lack of progress at the Stormont talks is a cause of grave concern, in particular that the failure of the Ulster Unionist Party to engage constructively in the negotiations is preventing forward movement ?

``We have a position now where Mr. Paisley and his allies, including a former member of this house and Government Minister Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien are trying to wreck the talks from outside, while the Ulster Unionist Party is in effect engaged in sabotage from the inside.

``Would the Taoiseach agree also that the issues of prisoners and of demilitarisation remain totally neglected by the British government ? In the county bordering my consistency, in South Armagh, British military fortifications have actually been extended during these negotiations. I would point to the position of those Irish political prisoners in England who have served 22 years and who have neither been transferred here nor received a release date-namely Joe O'Connell, Hugh Doherty, Harry Duggan and Eddie Butler. This is particularly glaring in the midst of a peace process and is a growing cause of alarm to all the many hundreds of relatives of political prisoners who are despairing of the prospect of release at this time.

``Will the Taoiseach emphasise in his contacts with the British government these vital issues of confidence building and equality, as well as the central need for real progress at the talks ?''

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