Category: Archive

McGuinness: IRA demob unlikely

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

He also maintained, as party spokesmen have said for the last two weeks, that the latest round of Downing Street talks involving the Irish and British governments, and aimed at restoring the workings of the political institutions in the North, are the most critical in the last 20 years.
“Either they will be successful and we will move on in an incredible way or they will not be successful and we will be great difficulty with regard to implementation of the Good Friday agreement,” McGuinness said.
He said that if May’s assembly elections take place without there first being an agreement on restoring the institutions, it could mean an end to the GFA.
“People on all sides are facing up to what needs to be done,” he said.
What is needed, in his view, is a “big push” that would include completion of a full transfer of powers, including full implementation of the Patten report on policing and a “dramatic demilitarization” by the British army in South Armagh and other parts of the North.
McGuinness, however, was cautious on the matter of any suggestion of an early move by the IRA toward disbanding. “I think it is noticeable that the promotion of the concept that there would be IRA disbandment seems to have not gained favor with a lot of people,” he said.
“People recognize that against the backdrop of ongoing attacks by the UDA against Catholics, and the failure of the British to demilitarize, that this is something that is not going to go anywhere. So that seems to have gone off the radar screen in the course of recent times.”
McGuinness, in the U.S. to raise funds, deliver a lecture in Albany and meet with political leaders in Washington, said that it was “not a credible position for anybody within republicanism” to be contemplating the disbandment of the IRA when there were ongoing attacks on the Catholic community, and indeed on fellow Protestants, by the UDA.
“The view in Belfast, which I share,” he said, “is that when that comes to an end, that these people, because they have swung anti-agreement, could conceivably go back to killing Catholics.
“I want the unionist paramilitaries to stop attacking Catholics and stop killing each other. I also want to use my influence with others to convince those unionist paramilitaries that they should put their weapons beyond use.”
McGuinness said he would, however, “never contemplate” bringing down the agreement, or the institutions, if loyalists refused to disarm.
“The critical thing to achieve at this time is the silence of their guns,” he said. “If the UDA are not killing people, and are not involved in activities counterproductive to the peace process, I don’t care if they never disband.
“I know that if the peace process is a success, then ultimately, because of politics working, all the armed groups in the North will . . . go out of business in a natural way, as opposed to a forced way.”
There was an effort to portray the IRA as a threat, he said. But republicans and nationalists, he continued, saw the threat as coming from paramilitaries and those not prepared to promote and advocate the agreement within David Trimble’s own party. This, he said, was hypocrisy.
“Trimble has never succeeded in getting loyalist groups to decommission anything and when the matter of loyalist killings was raised with him, he would say that’s a policing matter. That’s a total abdication of his responsibilities,” McGuinness said. “That’s akin to me saying, if people were killing one other in the Bogside, that it’s a matter for the police and not for me. It has everything to do with political leaders to use their considerable influence to convince people that these activities should not be going on.”
With regard to the May elections, McGuinness said that there has to be a deal on restoring the suspended political institutions “signed sealed and delivered” before St. Patrick’s Day as the elected assembly would be dissolved around March 20.
“The Democratic process cannot be suspended and put off,” he said. “The elections should take place and we can then deal with political realities post-election.
“To not have the elections will send a very negative message that the political process is not working. The elections should go ahead.”
With regard to a possible resumption of IRA decommissioning, McGuinness would not rule it out. “We are not so arrogant as to believe that other issues of concern to other people won’t be on the table in the coming period,” he said.

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