Senator George Mitchell has completed his review of the Good Friday Agreement, saying the basis now exists for the establishment of a Northern executive and the beginning of decommissioning as soon as possible. Speaking at Stormont, Senator Mitchell outlined the timetable which, he said, would lead to the creation of a power sharing government. He said the various steps should all take place on the same day, starting with devolution, followed by a meeting of the executive and then the appointment by the paramilitary groups of their authorised representatives. Mr Mitchell warned the parties that neither side would get all it wanted and both would have to endure severe political pain.
Responding to Senator Mitchell's statement, senior Ulster Unionist negotiator, Sir Reg Empey, said there was no other way forward and that the real winners would be the people. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said that his party believes the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement holds out the best hope of securing an end to injustice, inequality and conflict that has "troubled Ireland for generations". Mr Adams said the way had now been cleared for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
There have been widespread tributes to Senator George Mitchell. The Northern Secretary, Peter Mandelson, said the North's political parties had very great responsibility for ensuring that what had been achieved would be taken forward. Mr Mandelson, paid tribute to the Senator's contribution to the peace process and said that the Irish and British Governments would consider his statement over the next two days. The Taoiseach has praised Senator George Mitchell's skill and tenacity during his 11-week review of the Good Friday Agreement. Speaking in Istanbul at the summit of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Mr Ahern said the parties committed to the Agreement showed convincing and positive leadership.
While the deal, which the Senator brokered during the review, is beginning to take shape, there are growing signs that not all Unionists are satisfied. Five Ulster Unionist MP's last night rejected the earlier statement by the IRA that it will enter talks on decommissioning, once the power-sharing Executive is established. In a statement, the Unionists described the paramilitary's announcement as "totally inadequate" and said that the UUP must stick by its "no guns, no government" policy. The MP's added that the Mitchell proposals blur the line between democracy and terrorism. The five who signed the statement were: William Thompson, William Ross, Roy Beggs, Clifford Forsythe and Martin Smyth. The Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble has disassociated himself from the rejection.
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