Category: Archive

Or else what?

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — The Irish and British governments have set June 30 as the new deadline for transferring power from London to Stormont, under an Executive to include Sinn Fein. In the meantime, a shadow executive is be named, and General De Chastelain, who heads the arms paramilitary arms decommissioning body, will report to the assembly before the deadline on progress made toward disarmament.

But the Ulster Unionist Party says their proposals lack "clarity and substance" and has rejected them because they do not meet the party’s demand for the beginning of "credible and verifiable" disarmament before Sinn Féin can take part in a new Northern Ireland government.

Sinn Fein’s president, Gerry Adams, has called on UUP leader David Trimble to clearly spell out his objections to the proposals, saying Sinn Féin had not made a definitive response in order to give the UUP time to consider them.

The UUP said it would not change its position on disarmament now, during or after the fast-approaching European elections. The statement added that the issue goes right to the heart of the Good Friday peace agreement and to the commitments to peace and democracy to which government ministers must abide.

However, in an astonishing about-face, the British and Irish governments appear to have accepted Adams’s word that he cannot deliver IRA disarming at this stage in the peace process, and have brought forward proposals that do not stipulate any decommissioning prior to the setting up of the Executive.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

A Downing Street statement said that Prime Minister Blair told the parties on Friday that the deadline is "absolute." It also said Blair was disappointed the Ulster Unionists had not yet accepted the proposals the new deadline reflected his frustration.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble brought the new plan to his assembly party meeting at Stormont on Saturday. Afterward, he emerged to say they had serious reservations about it and needed clarification before coming to a final decision.

Hard-line members of the party, however, made it clear this week they cannot see how Trimble can sign up to the document, as it exists. It seems likely that the UUP will not be able to give a definitive response until after the June 10 European elections.

Sinn Féin and the SDLP are understood to be broadly in agreement with the new proposals. Sinn Fein has already accused the UUP of rejecting the plan, the contents of which represent a significant diplomatic coup for the party.

The UUP deputy leader, John Taylor, insisted that his party was sticking to its demand that IRA decommissioning must start before Unionists would accept Sinn Féin into an Executive. "There will be no executive without decommissioning", the Strangford MP said.

Jeffrey Donaldson, the UUP anti-Agreement MP, who stormed out of the Stormont talks just prior to his party leader accepting the Good Friday agreement, said it was his understanding Trimble would not accept the governments’ proposals as they stood. Another dissident UUP member, Peter Weir, said the UUP would split if Trimble did.

Adams has warned the peace process is at a "very, very critical" stage. He also said he believed that the cease-fires by two of the main loyalist paramilitary groups were now over.

"All the evidence shows that the UDA and the LVF cessations are finished," he told reporters. Adams said the LVF had been heavily involved in recent attacks on Catholic families while loyalist sources had linked the UDA to the murder of the human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson.

"There is a relatively short window of opportunity here. I think events dictate that this has to be done in the next fortnight or so," said Adams. Earlier he said the Agreement was in tatters and would not be saved unless the unionists ended their demands for IRA disarmament.

"Tony Blair can unlock the whole unionist logjam by creating a new context, if he can persuade Mr. Trimble of the logic of moving this process forward away from those that want to wreck it on to the safe ground of the compromise that has already been made," Adams said.

Outside Number 10, Trimble said: "I’m afraid that following on the Sinn Fein conference at the weekend things do not seem to be particularly encouraging. The most optimistic thing we can do at the moment is keep pressing away and hope that in time — and I hope not too long a time — the Republican movement will start to implement its part of the agreement.

"There’s a very simple way forward and that’s for people to address their obligation under the agreement to deliver real peace and to prove it by addressing the weapons issue. That has not yet happened."

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese