Category: Archive

New year, but old positions remain on arms decommissioning

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — Republican sources are resolutely saying no arms will be decommissioned, as demanded by the Ulster Unionists, in advance of Sinn Fein’s participation in a power-sharing Executive.

With the New Year’s political agenda being set, and decommissioning the major stumbling block to implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, there is no sign of any change of heart on either side.

The Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, has left himself little room for maneuver in his demand for an actual handover of IRA arms before accepting Sinn Fein’s right to sit in the Executive.

Words, he is saying, are not enough. There must be an actual handover of military hardware, in front of TV cameras, to demonstrate a commitment by republicans to "exclusively peaceful and democratic" methods.

A leading republican told the Irish Echo this week: "This is one area where Gerry Adams cannot deliver. The sooner people begin to deal in the real world, the better. . . . The simple fact is there is no demand from the grass-roots for decommissioning, nor from the IRA rank-and-file.

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"The governments have two months to get this sorted out. The Irish government has a vital role, but the main responsibility lies with the British government, who still exercise jurisdiction over the North."

Appeal by Brady

Meanwhile, the Catholic primate and Archbishop of Armagh, Sean Brady, has made a direct appeal to the IRA for decommissioning, saying that the handing over of weapons should not become an obstacle to the setting up of the Executive.

The affect of some decommissioning now would be a powerful confidence-building measure, he said, adding that it was wrong to speak of guns being necessary for defense since in the past many people had been murdered despite the existence of heavily armed groups on both sides.

There are also fears of a resurgence of violence from republican splinter groups after it was reported from British police sources that the Continuity IRA (which shares the political views of Republican Sinn Fein) has set up a unit in North Belfast and is planning a bombing campaign in Britain.

Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein strongly hit out at "republican rejectionists" saying it was "only a matter of time until their utter recklessness and lack of political vision ended in tragedy."

"Unfortunately none could foretell the enormity of the tragedy they would visit upon an unsuspecting public in Omagh on Aug. 15", he said, hoping that the dignity of the people who had suffered would inspire politicians to renew their work for peace.

There were two murder attempts on Catholics over the Christmas holidays. A Catholic family in Armagh city were targeted by loyalists who placed a bomb on a windowsill of their home and a Catholic youth was badly beaten in another attack.

In the first attack, Kay O’Connor was at home with her three children when a blast bomb was placed on a windowsill close to her head. Police believe the attackers must have looked through the partially closed blinds before leaving the bomb.

O’Connor was showered with glass but escaped injury. The three children were asleep in bed and unharmed. The bombers, who have not claimed responsibility, were probably trying to intimidate the family out of the mixed-religion area where they had recently moved, it is believed.

In the second attack, a group of youths were attacked at a notorious sectarian flashpoint close to Belfast city center. They were passing a junction between the Ormeau Road and the mainly Protestant Donegall Pass district when a group of six or seven loyalists gave chase.

One man fell and was badly beaten as he lay on the ground. A gun was then pulled on him but one of the gang ordered the gunman to aim at another man.

The gun was then fired but jammed, despite repeated attempts to clear it.

Omagh suspects

The RUC believes it knows who was responsible for the Omagh bombing, according to a report in the London Time" newspaper. Det. Chief Supt. Eric Anderson, who’s heading the inquiry, says he believes he knows who was responsible but he has insufficient evidence to bring charges.

Six people living along the border in the Armagh, Louth and Monaghan areas are chief suspects, along with at least one person living in the Omagh area itself.

Anderson says they are among the 20 or so people already held for questioning about the bombing and released without charge.

A row also broke out this week over the award of British titles in the New Year’s Honors List. Traditionally SDLP members do not accept such awards, which they deem to be unsuitable for Irish nationalists.

Downing Street, however, took the unusual step of announcing that some in the SDLP had turned down awards, causing party members to accuse the British government of breaking with tradition by not disclosing such details.

The RUC chief constable, Ronnie Flanagan, and the Ulster Unionist Party’s senior negotiator at the Stormont talks, Reg Empey, were both made knights. Other politicians honored include Pearl Sagar of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition.

Also honored are the three chairmen of the Stormont talks: George Mitchell received an honorary knighthood; former Finnish prime minister Harri Holkeri was made a KBE, and Canadian general John de Chastelain was a Companion of Honor.

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