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Alliance Leader, Lord Alderdice, Deputy Leader, Seamus Close and former Leader, Oliver Napier, have travelled to Hillsborough this evening to meet the Prime Minister.

On leaving Castle Buildings, the Alliance Leader said:

“I was pleased that the Prime Minister responded positively to our request that he travel urgently to Northern Ireland. The paper presented early this morning was a step backwards rather than forwards in our search for a settlement. The Prime Minister’s decision to come to the Talks has opened the possibility that an agreement could be reached.

“The Governments, and parties to the Talks, must realise that if they push too far in any agreement it will not work. We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of 1974 and 1985 again. History has shown that even if Party Leaders, in the pressure of negotiations, sign up to an agreement, such agreements can collapse under pressure.

“The Prime Minister must learn from the mistakes of the past and help us to reach a realistic agreement by Thursday.”

NOTES:

Oliver Napier, former Alliance Leader was one of the four signatories to the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement which established a power-sharing Assembly in Belfast in 1974. This Agreement subsequently collapsed in the face of unionist pressure.

Alliance Deputy Leader, Seamus Close, has expressed concern at reports that David Andrews’ has implied that a referendum may not happen on 22 May. He has called upon Mr Andrews to clarify this matter.

Seamus Close said:

“Today, I have read newspaper reports indicating that David Andrews has implied that a referendum on a political agreement may not happen on 22 May.

“Alliance believes that slippage within the current process could be very dangerous. It is vital that the parties remain committed to working to the already publicised timetable.

“It is vital that Mr Andrews clarifies the Irish Government’s position on the referendum.”

Alliance Party Spokesperson, Stephen Farry, has welcomed the results of the Opinion Poll published in the Belfast Telegraph as a strong indication that the people of Northern Ireland are hungry for political agreement.

Stephen Farry said:

“This latest poll shows that the people of Northern Ireland are hungry for a political agreement.

“There is overwhelming support right across the community for a package of measures that closely resembles what could be potentially agreed within the Talks.

“I believe that all the political parties that are seeking agreement should take encouragement from the results, and have the confidence to take the key decisions necessary to deliver the agreement.

“Some people who are opposed to any agreement who will try to rubbish these findings. But this poll was a scientifically conducted poll; it is an accurate reflection of current public opinion.”

Alliance Councillor David Ford, has slammed those who distributed LVF posters in South Antrim at the weekend.

David Ford said:

“These posters were nothing but a crude attempt by Loyalist terrorists to impose their will on local people. I condemn all such intimidation, wherever it comes from.

“At The Talks in London last week, the UDP delegation walked out because other parties joined Alliance in making clear that we believed them to be in breach of the Mitchell principles.

“Afterwards, there was a much more constructive atmosphere, and some progress was made.

“It is important at this time that all parties, and all responsible leaders, stand together in support of the talks process and against all those who would try to disrupt the hopes invested in The Talks.”

Alliance Leader, Lord Alderdice, commenting on today’s Strand 2 paper from the British and Irish Governments, has called for the parties to address the questions raised.

Speaking from Lancaster House, Lord Alderdice said:

“Last week, the parties batted the ball to the two Governments. Today the Governments just batted the ball back.

“This paper is just a series of questions to focus the negotiations, but already some parties are trying to bat the ball back to the Governments again.

“I would appeal to colleagues in the Talks to stop playing this game of pingpong and start giving answers to the questions.

“Some parties will find the questions more difficult to answer than others. But avoiding the questions, and passing the buck, is an irresponsible waste of negotiating time.”