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Trimble, in D.C. visit, courts Bush advisors

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Susan Falvella Garraty

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The head of the Northern Ireland Assembly indicated during a visit to Washington last week that time is not of the essence in sorting through problems in Northern Ireland. He proposed that leaders should consider a review of the peace process.

At a news conference on Friday, UUP leader and First Minister David Trimble said, "I’m here just floating the concept of going into a formal review," adding, "and we don’t see any immediate prospect of the sequence we entered into last May actually working."

Even as the taoiseach and Downing Street have stressed the need to pursue a solution to the ongoing stalemate over decommissioning, policing, and the ban on Sinn Fein from participating in the all-Ireland ministerial sessions, Trimble preached retrospection.

"I don’t want to go beyond that point at this stage other than to say that — as it were, to hoist that idea over the horizon — and to say that I think this may be appropriate, but obviously would have to consult with other parties on the matter," he said.

"I think the obvious thing to look toward is that if progress isn’t achieved . . . and I’ve no reason to believe that it will be, then I think we need to work toward a formal review of the agreement with the purpose of devising and sustaining workable democratic structures."

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Trimble’s staff said after the news conference that there was no presupposed expectations on how long the review would take.

Trimble, here for meetings with Bush administration officials at the State Department and to speak at a conservative political conference, said he felt comfortable with the new group of U.S. government advisors, who mirror his own political leanings more than did former President Clinton. He said he envisioned a role for the U.S. in helping to solve the North’s problems, but in a more limited role.

The UUP leader said he did have some requests for assistance from the Bush White House. Finishing the process begun by the Clinton administration to add the Real IRA to the U.S. State Department Terrorist Watch List was among them.

He also said he suspected gun running from the U.S. to nationalists in the North continued despite the well-publicized convictions in the gun-running case in Florida last year. Trimble alleged that authorities held back on pursuing other leads.

"I would specifically like to see the Bush administration and the new attorney general look at that case and related cases — because I believe that there were investigations taking place with regard to other cities as well — to assure us about what was the full extent of that gun-running operation and just exactly who was involved in it," he said.

Trimble also met with Vice President Dick Cheney while participating in a conservative think tank seminar during his stay. At a panel discussion that included mostly right-wing conservatives from Britain and the U.S., Trimble took a swipe at former President Clinton.

Among those present were former Isr’li Prime Minister Benjamin Netanjahu. During the course of discussions on global attitudes toward terrorism, Netanyahu asked of Trimble’s experience with the Clinton administration. Trimble said, "The last administration and many from their generation had a problem," and that was "romanticizing the men of violence" in much the same way as "Che Guevara has been romanticized."

Richard Pearle, a former Reagan administration official said, "Gerry Adams was a terrorist, is a terrorist and always will be a terrorist," as Trimble smiled. Pearle has had a prominent role in the last few weeks as a proponent of the current Bush administration’s attempt to gain support for its Star Wars missile defense system and could well gain a senior position with the administration.

Asked if Adams should be welcome at the White House this year, Trimble replied, " That’s entirely a matter for the administration, and I wouldn’t in any way want to influence their guest list, other than to occasionally have me on it."

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