Category: Archive

Sinn Fein blames British agenda on failure of talks

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — Talks between Sinn Fein and the British and Irish governments broke down just before Christmas with no report of progress and Sinn Fein laying the blame at the feet of what it calls the "militarists" dictating the British government’s political agenda.

With another meeting of the Ulster Unionist Party’s ruling Council meeting expected in January, and a British general election due by May, the breakdown leaves the peace process in a precarious position.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams urged the British government to take advantage of the Christmas break to review its management of the peace process. Attempts to "spin" the breakdown in talks as a natural break for Christmas were misleading, he said.

"Don’t be lulled into thinking this was a cordial end for a Christmas break and that we start again in the new year," he said. "There are those within the British system who have had arbitrary power for a very long time who must have their mindset changed."

Meanwhile, the head of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, Gen. John de Chastelain, reported there has been no progress on actual disarming and calling on the IRA to reengage "substantively."

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The IICD said that sufficient time still exists to achieve the complete decommissioning of paramilitary arms by June 2001, the target date for the full implementation of all sections of the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.

If the target of June is to be achieved, however, the IICD believes a "substantive engagement" with the IRA’s representative must happen as soon as possible followed by early movement on actual decommissioning.

"We already have agreement in principle on schemes with the UVF and UFF," the IICD said in a statement. "We are anxious to explore with the IRA representative their proposal to put arms beyond use and our role in that process.

"Again the Commission remains prepared to state, if necessary, when we believe decommissioning must start and how it must proceed if we are to fulfill our mandate within the required period."

But such IRA reengagement with the IICD seems remote after the breakdown of Sinn Fein’s talks with the British government. Gerry Kelly, who along with Adams and Martin McGuinness had been involved in the intensive talks, said London must "face up to its responsibilities and to honor the commitments it made."

"I have to say after many days of concentrated discussions that many obstacles remain to be removed," Kelly said. "The British government, which created this crisis, has to deliver in a meaningful and substantive way on the issues of policing and demilitarization and other matters for which it has sole responsibility."

A British government spokesman denied the talks had broken down and said the government hopes it would continue in the New Year. "We are exactly where we expected to be at this stage," he said.

Kelly pointed out that the IRA had made a deal in May to allow inspections of arms dumps and to make contact with the international decommissioning body.

"They have done all of that," he said. "A deal is a deal. They came to an agreement with the British government and the British government reneged on that."

Rank-and-file unrest?

Meanwhile, it has been learned that the Sinn Fein leadership is concerned at the growing belief among the party rank and file that the agreement has failed as an instrument for change and that the British government is taking the IRA cease-fire for granted.

The prevailing mood among the republican leadership facing into the New Year is of gloom about the future of the peace process.

"If a majority of nationalists conclude that the agreement cannot deliver change, then we are facing a very uncertain future in 2001," one senior republican source said. "It seems the British side are increasingly taking it as read that, over six years since the cessation, the IRA cease-fire will continue forever irrespective of what they do. This is a gamble they are foolish to make."

For their part, Unionists are determined there should be no further "concessions" to republicans.

"Sinn Fein whinge, while not unexpected, is disappointing in that it fails to acknowledge the opportunities that have been created and implemented over the past year," said Ken Maginnis, the UUP security spokesman.

"Taking into account the significant ongoing threat that dissident terrorists of all hues still pose, and including the seizures of commercial explosives in recent days, one must hope that the Ggovernment will not be blackmailed into conceding to the not-so-subtle intimidation of Mr. Kelly."

Democratic Unionist Party security spokesman Gregory Campbell has described Sinn Fein’s comments as "sickening hypocrisy" and called on the British government not to bow to republican demands for speedy demilitarization.

"I have no doubt that there will be considerable blackmail and pressure applied by the republican movement to the British government and we will see if they hold up to it," he said.

Ian Paisley Jr., the DUP’s justice spokesman, said the IICD’s statement underlined the fact the IRA had "got away, quite literally, with murder. They have given nothing and David Trimble has given away everything."

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