By Jack Holland
The British government is expected for the first time to define what it means by a cease-fire in an attempt to help Unionist leader David Trimble hold together the pro-Good Friday agreement elements of his party, it has been learned from reliable sources. After last Thursday’s high-level talks involving the Irish and British governments and all the pro-agreement parties, which were meant to resolve the current crisis in the peace process, British Prime Minister Tony Blair promised the Unionist leader that he would make proposals before July 24 (when parliament goes into summer recess) that would answer Unionist criticisms. Unionists are increasingly angry at what they claim are continuing violations by the IRA, which, they say, are going unpunished. Trimble desperately needs a mechanism for imposing sanctions for breeches of the cease-fire that he thinks will act as a deterrent to the IRA.
The new definition of a cease-fire will demand a halt to intelligence gathering and targeting operations, and an end to the procurement of new weapons. If such activities continue, the British government will declare the organization — loyalist or republican — to be in violation of its cease-fire and act accordingly to imposes sanctions. The move would be seen as being chiefly aimed at Sinn Fein, since it is the only paramilitary-linked party with representatives in government.
“Martin McGuinness’s definition of a cease-fire is not acceptable,” a source familiar with British government thinking said last week. About three weeks ago, McGuinness said that since the IRA had not shot at a policeman or a soldier in four years, its cease-fire is intact.
But the moderates in the UUP have been riled by a series of incidents which they say prove that the IRA is still active. These include: