Category: Archive

Pessimism prevails for fall move

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The Irish government has been made aware of the situation, according to reliable sources. However, sources close to the Irish government insist that Dublin?s policy of pressing for elections to the suspended Northern Ireland assembly is still the most viable option for persuading the IRA to fulfill its commitment to ending all illegal activities and operations, saying that it was ?wide off the mark? to suggest that the republican leadership has warned the government that no movement is to be expected.
But other Irish sources have said that by April it was clear that Sinn Fein could not ?deliver? on the British demand that the IRA cease all paramilitary activities and that at a recent meeting between Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Sinn Fein leadership this was reiterated.
The demand was contained in paragraph 13 of the Joint Declaration, which states:
?Paramilitarism and sectarian violence, therefore must be brought to an end from which ever part of the community they came. We need to see an immediate, full and permanent cessation of all paramilitary activity, including military attacks, training, targeting, intelligence gathering, acquisition or development of arms or weapons, other preparations for terrorist campaign, punishment beatings and attacks and involvement in riots.?
The paragraph also called for an end to exiling and said all exiles must be allowed to return home.
The British government postponed elections twice last spring after failing to get the IRA to sign up to Blair?s demand for an ?act of completion,? involving an act of significant decommissioning, a statement declaring the war is over and a commitment to ceasing all illegal activities.
In April, the British and Irish governments rejected two IRA statements. The statements in substance said that the IRA was no threat to the peace process, that it would reengage with the decommissioning body and that it could foresee a time when all arms would be put beyond use. The closest it came to declaring the war over was to say that if both governments and all the parties to the Good Friday agreement fulfilled their commitments ?it would provide the basis for the complete and final closure of the conflict.?
Observers who predicted as early as March that the IRA would not deliver enough to meet the British criteria were proven right. Most critically, British Prime Minister Tony Blair judged that the IRA?s statements would fall short of assuring the Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, that he could win the support of his party for a return to government with Sinn Fein. The British suspended the Northern Ireland assembly last October after allegations that the IRA was involved in a widespread and elaborate information-collection operation at Stormont.
Beginning in January, Dublin and London launched a concerted effort to get devolution up and running again. Blair even persuaded U.S. President George W. Bush to come to Northern Ireland in the midst of the Iraqi war to throw his support behind the demands for a complete end to all illegal paramilitary activities. When all efforts failed to produce the sought-for breakthrough, against the opposition of the Irish government, Blair postponed elections, angering most of the North?s political parties.
A source close to the Irish government said that it was understood that the IRA leadership had rejected the British demands that would in effect mean a disbanding of the IRA. It was also suggested that the leadership had done little or nothing to prepare the volunteers for any such move.
Since May, the situation has continued to stagnate. Sinn Fein and its supporters have bitterly accused the British of denying democracy in order to protect Trimble from the threat posed by anti-agreement Unionists, who are now close to splitting the UUP. Gerry Adams the Sinn Fein President said after a meeting with Ahern on June 26 that there was a need for a ?definitive and unqualified assertion that elections will be implemented and that the agreement will be implemented in full?It is clear elections will anchor the peace process??.
The Irish government also remains insistent that setting an election date is necessary to get the broader republican movement to reengage fully in the political process. It argues that paragraph 13 must not become a ?precondition? for holding elections.
?You won?t trigger the normalization process unless you set a date,? said a source close to Dublin?s thinking.
The British government, however, is worried that if an election date is set, and the IRA again refuses to sign up to paragraph 13, another postponement would be necessary. If the election goes ahead, London fears that an anti-agreement Unionist majority would emerge, headed by the Rev. Ian Paisley?s Democratic Unionist Party. This week Paisley said that the DUP would never go into government with Sinn Fein. He called Sinn Fein ?a terrorists? party? and said it too would have to be ?disbanded? along with the IRA.
Once more the Irish and British governments divide on their evaluation of the DUP, with the Irish adopting an optimistic view that the party has enough pragmatists who want back into power and who would circumvent Paisley?s dictates, and the British being dubious that any such move would be possible.
On the republican side, there have been alarming signals that the dissident group the Real IRA, which was responsible for the 1998 Omagh bombing that killed 29 people, has dramatically upgraded its bomb-making skills. In June, two large bombs were intercepted, one in Derry and the other near the border in County Louth. The Derry bomb weighed 1,200 pounds, twice the size of the Omagh bomb, and was described as a sophisticated devise using tubes stuffed with plastic explosives to boost the bomb?s overall explosive power. This was a common device used by the Provisional IRA during the later stages of their campaign. Reliable sources have said that this suggests that the RIRA may have recruited a bomb maker from the mainstream IRA. For several years, the RIRA?s bombs had shown a deterioration in size and sophistication.
Meanwhile, RIRA prisoners in Maghaberry prison are threatening to go on hunger strike unless they are segregated from loyalist inmates. Last week, dissident republican supporters occupied the offices of the Northern Ireland Prison Service headquarters in Dundonald House Belfast. The next day, July 4, a large force of police raided the Ballymurphy home of Anthony McIntyre, who runs the Blanket website, a venue for dissident republican opinion. Computer material, cell phones and other articles were taken away. McIntyre said he had been in attendance at the protest but as a reporter.

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