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06-07-1999 Statement following meeting with US Cronfressional delegation

 

The blueprint drawn up by the two Governments on Friday offers a fair, balanced and honourable way forward for everybody.

I wanted to take this opportunity, today to place on record again my conviction that all the parties involved are deeply committed to making the Good Friday Agreement work. That collective sense of commitment and determination was palpable in Castle Buildings all week. The move made by Sinn Féin last week was a deeply important one, and should be acknowledged by all of us as a hugely positive and constructive contribution to the search for a compromise. And 1 know that it was a move not easily made.

Equally, for the UUP, I appreciate both the difficulties which the package presents, and the commitment they have shown to finding an honourable outcome. David Trimble has provided real leadership in ensuring unionist support for the Good Friday Agreement. I remain hopeful that, despite the undoubted problems he faces in regard to the Governments' blueprint, he will see the very real advantages for unionism in the document.

Let me also acknowledge the huge contribution being made by John Hume, Séamus Mallon and their colleagues in the SDLP. As always, the SDLP have a critical and central role to play in the critical days ahead. We continue to need also the close, support and co-operation of the other pro-Agreement parties - the Alliance, the PUP, the Women's Coalition and the UDP. The Good Friday Agreement is first and foremost an exercise in inclusive, collective politics. And I want to emphasise the crucial importance of the exercise being inclusive. That is why in the Good Friday Agreement, and again last Friday, we carefully ensured that the emphasis was on inclusion and not on exclusion. That is the only way forward.

I believe that we must all now show an understanding of the delicate and sensitive time that this is for the parties. What is being asked of people is difficult and does require hard choices. I think we must all be careful to ensure that, over the coming days, we say nothing that would make those decisions more difficult, and that we give people the space they need.

But, at the same time, we must find some way to bring the debate to an end and take the decisions, hard though they are, which will give effect to the will of the people. That is what the Governments are trying to do in the Way Forward. It remains our deepest hope we can all move ahead now on that basis so that the hope and promise of the Good Friday Agreement can be realised to the full, to the benefit of all our people.

Finally, in the distinguished presence of Chairman Gilman, Jim Walsh and their Congressional colleagues, may I take this opportunity to express our gratitude to President Clinton and to our many friends in Congress for their solidarity with us once again at a difficult moment in the process. The extent and level of US support for the efforts of the two Governments and the parties has been quite extraordinary, and of enormous importance.

Ends