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McGuinness warns of deepening crisisBy Jack Holland

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator at the all-party talks, Martin McGuinness, warned this week that the Good Friday peace agreement was "in need of major surgery" to save it.

McGuinness spoke in New York City on Monday, May 3, at a meeting especially convened because of the "serious situation" that has developed in Northern Ireland. The venue, O’Neill’s Bar on Third Avenue, was packed with more than 100 people who heard McGuinness give his gloomiest prognostication to date.

"This is an attempt to save the Good Friday agreement," he said. "There is no bluffing. Time is against us."

The agreement was signed on April 10, 1998, with provisions for a power-sharing executive and cross-border bodies. But because of a dispute between Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionist Party over decommissioning, the agreement has yet to be implemented.

McGuinness said he was concerned about rumors that the British and Irish governments would decide to suspend or "park" the agreement for the summer, always a contentious and volatile time in Northern Ireland. If this occurs, he said, "there isn’t going to be a Good Friday agreement on the other side of the summer."

He said he feared that there was a coming together of rejectionist loyalist paramilitary groups such as the Orange Volunteers, the Red Hand Defenders and elements in the Ulster Defense Association and the Loyalist Volunteer Force. He claimed that there had been "120 bomb attacks" against the nationalist community so far this year and that "100,000 Orangemen" were planning to mass at Drumcree, near Lurgan in County Armagh, this July to try and force their way past the Catholic Garvaghy Road neighborhood.

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"We’re not prepared to stand by," said McGuinness. "The time has come to mobilize." He said that Sinn Fein wants to "work with David Trimble," the UUP leader and first minister of the new government. He said that there is a "sensible way" of removing guns from the situation.

McGuinness was due to visit Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, May 4.

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