That was the unambiguous message from the Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, on Monday as he prepared to leave Northern Ireland for the annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities in the U.S.
Mitchel McLaughlin, the party’s chairman, called the UUP leader’s comments “deliberately provocative.”
“His agenda has been to try to freeze Sinn Fein out from the very start,” he said. “
Trimble, however, was straightforward about what advice he will give President Bush and other senior U.S. politicians this week.
“I would suggest to the administration that if Sinn Fein and the IRA fail this final test, then the United States should reconsider its whole approach to them.”
Since last week’s talks at Hillsborough Castle outside Belfast failed to deliver a comprehensive package of proposals to implement the Good Friday agreement in full, all the parties have been continuing intensive behind-the-scenes talks.
Sinn Fein has been concentrating on whether the UUP is prepared to give any concrete undertakings not to repeatedly pull down the assembly and executive, while unionists have focused almost entirely on the need for an IRA statement and decommissioning.
Sinn Fein has also accused the Irish government of “colluding” with the British government over the proposal to exclude Sinn Fein from government, should the IRA break its ceasefire.
The current proposals are that a four-person team be appointed, comprising a U.S. government nominee, Irish and British nominees and one from Northern Ireland, to judge whether any party has breached the commitments set down in the agreement.
If the panel agrees, a breach has taken place, its findings would go to the northern secretary and the Assembly to decide what penalties should be imposed. Although any party would be liable — the measure is being seen as focused mainly against Sinn Fein.
Trimble is insisting on sanctions before he will return to power-sharing with Sinn Fein. The U.S. government has already said it’s prepared to nominate a representative to the proposed monitoring body.
President Bush’s special advisor, Ambassador Richard Haass, said: “We’ve said all along we’re prepared to do our part. We’ve supported, for example, the verification body that dealt with arms decommissioning in the past. There’s an American on that and we would be more than prepared to recommend that some American support this new body.”
On Monday, in his last pre-U.S. visit press conference, Trimble said he would be telling the U.S. government that “Irish republicans played a game of brinkmanship at Hillsborough last week and put at risk the initiative the [British] prime minister had taken by stalling and prevaricating.
“They know what they have to do — they know they have to do it sooner rather than later,” Trimble said.
Speaking at a special meeting of the Sinn Fein ard comhairle, party president Gerry Adams said discussions were continuing with the two governments and the other parties in a sustained effort to close gaps.
“It is unacceptable that the British government [has] unilaterally suspended political institutions at the behest of unionism on four occasions,” he said. “It is unacceptable that they have now postponed the elections at the behest of unionism.
“And it is unacceptable that they are now attempting to make the entire agreement subject to sanctions demanded by unionism.”
The SDLP leader, Mark Durkan, speaking Monday after meeting with the British Northern Ireland secretary, Paul Murphy, said there was still some flawed thinking on the two governments’ proposals on sanctions.
“Our approach would address and redress any default in implementation. The approach being offered by the governments centers on parties finding fault with each other on a complaint driven basis.”