By Ray O’Hanlon
Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble has written two leading U.S. senators explaining why his party recently imposed a bar on Sinn Féin ministers taking part in the Good Friday agreement’s North-South Ministerial Council.
Trimble’s letter was a reply to a previous letter of support penned by GOP Sens. John McCain and Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Trimble, in his letter, said that his party is committed to making the GFA work but that implementation has been difficult.
"The central cause of this difficulty has been the question over the IRA’s commitment to peace and disarmament," Trimble wrote McCain and Helms.
"We warned Sinn Féin privately in June that we would not be able to sustain their participation in the government for long if they failed to carry out their promises," Trimble stated in his letter, which was dated Nov. 6.
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"After several months with no movement on putting IRA weapons beyond use concern grew that, as before January of this year, the IRA would not honor their promises.
"Alarm within the community was increased further by accusations from the media and informed sources that the IRA were involved in three murders since June and have been engaged in gun smuggling from the United States."
In their earlier letter to Trimble, Helms and McCain expressed their support for Trimble’s efforts to defend both the peace process and unionist interests.
The senators commended Trimble for his "distinguished leadership to ensure that the momentum for peace in Northern Ireland has been maintained while protecting the interests of the community that you represent."
The senators said they would "continue to press for decommissioning of arms by combatants in this conflict" and that they appreciated the strength of Trimble’s convictions on all issues vital to reconciliation and peace.
"Please know that you continue to enjoy our support in this noble effort," Helms and McCain said.