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Britain imposes direct rule

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

BELFAST — Direct rule from London was reimposed on Northern Ireland early Tuesday morning after the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, threatened to resign as first minister of the Assembly after demanding the expulsion of Sinn Fein’s two ministers.
Trimble said he would resign rather than continue in the power-sharing Executive with Sinn Fein. Britain’s Northern Ireland secretary of state, Dr. John Reid, made the announcement on Monday morning Oct. 14, saying he was taking action “regrettably” as it had been impossible to overcome the current difficulties.
He denied that there would be joint-sovereignty with the Republic, saying he would only “consult” with his “colleagues” in the Irish government but that London would be making all decisions.
According to a Downing Street source, there are no plans to set up a shadow administration with the outgoing Stormont ministers regularly monitoring their departments.
Reid said the problem stemmed from a loss of trust on both sides, but he made it clear he laid the bulk of the blame at the door of republicans and the IRA by repeatedly referring to the need for “exclusively” peaceful action.
“In particular”, he said, “it is essential that concerns about the commitment to exclusively democratic and non-violent means are removed.”
London has appointed Angela Smith, the Labor Party MP for Basildon, Essex, and Ian Pearson, who represents Dudley South in the British west Midlands, as junior ministers to join Reid’s ministerial team.
Reid said that elections would go ahead on May 1, 2003 as planned. It is thought that if the British government believes that the two winners from those elections will be Sinn Fein and the anti-Agreement Democratic Unionist Party, the government will postpone polling.
Reid said he hopes to find a basis to bring the institutions back as soon as possible. He also reappointed the full membership of the Policing Board (which Sinn Fein is boycotting) to prevent a technical provision making it defunct along with the Assembly.
The Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, accused Reid of being “very, very dishonest in his remarks.”
Speaking in the wake of Reid’s decision on Monday, Adams said, “It strikes me to ask one question — what has been achieved by this morning’s announcement? [John Reid] talks about democracy, while for the fourth — the third time for him — suspending the institutions. Dr Reid is an intelligent man and he must know that what he is doing is accommodating resistance to the Good Friday agreement.”
Following the announcement, the British prime minister, Tony Blair, and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, issued a joint statement saying they remained firmly committed to the Good Friday agreement and are determined it will succeed, pledging to implement its other parts and to cooperate through the British/Irish Intergovernmental Council. In a barb aimed at Sinn Fein, the joint statement emphasized the need to move from a period of transition to one where there was a total commitment to non-violent means.
Trimble said talks now needed to focus on the activities of paramilitaries.
“It is those who are in those paramilitary [groups], or who have influence over them or can bring pressure to bear on them, who will be resolving that,” he said.
Trimble called on the two Sinn Fein ministers to resign from the Executive over the failure of the IRA to commit to peace.
“If Martin McGuinness were a man of integrity, he would resign, and there would be then no suspension — let him do the decent thing,” Trimble said. “His colleagues organized a massive spying ring on me, on John Reid, on Tony Blair and on President Bush. Is that normal politics? No it is not.
“Why do we stagger from crisis to crisis? The main reason is because the Irish republican movement has not committed itself wholeheartedly to deliver, as the agreement provided, a society operating by purely peaceful and democratic means”.
He said recent claims that four republicans had been involved in gathering intelligence on prison officers, a serving police officer and the general officer commanding British troops in Northern Ireland made it impossible for him to remain in the power-sharing Executive.
The Democratic Unionist Party leader, the Rev. Ian Paisley, whose two ministers resigned from the executive on Friday, said any talks to find a new political settlement must be held only after an assembly election is called.
“Those who do not want elections are afraid of the verdict of those elections,” Paisley said. “We need to get back to the task of finding a way Northern Ireland can be governed on a purely democratic basis.”
SDLP leader and Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan said there must be a determined effort to deal with the underlying confidence issues. He blamed both Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists for the crisis.
“My faith and confidence in the Good Friday agreement has not dissipated. In fact, I have more confidence in it than ever,” he said.

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