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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 21, 1996


The Administration welcomes the British Government's announcement of an election in Northern Ireland on May 30 to a forum leading to substantive talks on June 10. This represents another important step forward to the goal we all seek -- all party talks aimed at a just and lasting settlement to the conflict in Northern Ireland.

The election will select 110 representatives to the forum, and the parties will choose their negotiating teams from those elected representatives. The forum will be time-limited and independent of the negotiations. It will be able to constitute committees and hold hearings on relevant issues but will have no direct role in the talks.

The talks on June 10 have the clear objective of reaching a comprehensive negotiated settlement as quickly as possible. We recognize, as do the British and Irish Governments, that no party will find the arrangements for the election and the forum ideal. We will support the political leaders of Northern Ireland as they put aside these concerns and participate fully in the process leading to talks. Only through negotiation can a just and lasting peace be achieved. The steps announced today will help achieve that goal.

The peace process in Northern Ireland is at an historic juncture. We hope that the parties will seize the opportunity to advance the process and create the bright and peaceful future the people of Northern Ireland so clearly desire and deserve. And we call again on the IRA to listen to the people and restore the cease-fire immediately. There is no place for violence in the democratic process the two governments have worked so diligently to advance.

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