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McGuinness at White House

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Susan Falvella Garraty

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Chief Sinn Féin negotiator Martin McGuinness met with White House officials late Monday evening and explained his party’s concerns over the new Northern Ireland governing bill drawn up by the British government.

"There is a view within republicanism and within Sinn Féin that this legislation is about pandering to the rejectionist unionists," McGuinness told reporters in a steady rain outside the White House.

"There are many people who don’t want to see Catholics in government," he said of the newly designed legislation designed to ensure that the IRA will decommission weapons if Sinn Féin is allowed into the Northern Ireland executive body.

"We’re very, very conscious, in the course of this year, that David Trimble has managed successfully on a number of occasions to face Tony Blair down," warned McGuinness. "This process can not afford a unionist leader facing down a British prime minister."

White House officials listened to McGuinness, but following the meeting indicated they did not share his opposition to so-called fail-safe legislation. Over the last few weeks, President Clinton has endorsed the idea of such legislation, which would allow unionists to "just walk away" if IRA decommissioning does not become a reality.

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McGuinness said he had received assurances from Clinton administration officials involved in Irish policy that the president again stands at the ready to shepherd parties toward agreement as yet another looms for Northern Ireland’s politicians.

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