Optimism ahead of critical Irish talks

New hope for Northern Ireland deal
New hope for Northern Ireland deal

The Prime Minister and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern will travel to Belfast on Wednesday to witness an historic agreement between the province's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, Sunday newspapers claim.

Its is thought the deal will entail a two-part decommissioning of all IRA weapons by year's end, with the two parties to join each other in a devolved assembly before the end of March.

Under-writting the new push for peace is a one billion pounds financial settlement from London and Dublin.

The final draft of the deal has yet to be accepted by the Provisional IRA.

Dr Ian Paisley, leader of the DUP, said he will only join Sinn Fein in power sharing when the IRA becomes "an old boys' club".

Going into what could be one of the most political critical weeks in Irish politics since the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, there is a discernible sense that a deal could be done and dusted before Christmas.

But, as always with Northern Ireland, politicians are reluctant to make any firm predictions of peace.

According to some, Sinn Fein have accepted the need for verification of disarmament, but the sticking point is whether such actions should be witnesses or photographed.