Category: Archive

Trimble threatens to bring down government

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — A new and unexpected crisis in the peace process seems inevitable this week after Ulster Unionists pledged to take action against Sinn Fein for alleged breaches in the IRA cease-fire.

The UUP leader, David Trimble, has pledged to take unilateral, and so far unspecified, sanctions against Sinn Fein unless the British government does so first by bowing to his demand that republicans be punished.

Trimble says that unless London acts against Sinn Fein, he will “push the nuclear button” and force the collapse the democratic institutions set up by the Good Friday agreement four years ago.

British government spokesmen have, so far, repeatedly said that the IRA cease-fire is believed to be secure. The Northern Ireland secretary, John Reid, recently went as far as saying reports to the contrary were “mischievous.”

This reflects a belief in London that some senior policemen are working against the peace process by planting a number of exaggerated stories in the British press with the aim of disrupting the process.

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Senior British sources say that while republicans have a case to answer for their alleged role in helping to train anti-government guerillas in Colombia, leaks from within the senior echelons of the Police Service of Northern Ireland have seriously exacerbated matters.

“We don’t believe the whole thing is orchestrated, but there is an element of political motivation in this and a number of other areas,” a source said. “This is more than just innocent gossip and talking to sources.

“There seem to be a few people who have an axe to grind — individuals who have particular political slants and don’t like the process.”

Sources say that some recent reports have been “not entirely wrong” but have been selective and exaggerated with mischievous intent.

Sinn Fein minister and MP Martin McGuinness has attacked the Trimble threat.

“I think there’s every danger of us reaching a huge crisis within this process when I hear David Trimble talking about the nuclear option,” he said.

“We know what happened at Hiroshima, we know what happened at Nagasaki. Why are we talking about making the North of Ireland effectively a political wasteland?”

Speaking after a face-to-face meeting with the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, Trimble dismissed IRA denials of any involvement in recent actions, such as the raid on the Castlereagh security base or the alleged targeting of victims.

Trimble said that Adams had tried to repeat the denials during their meeting, but said, “We cut that short and told them that wasn’t the point. We didn’t engage in a discussion on who did what to whom.

“The crucial point was explained that nobody in the Unionist community believed a word that republicans are saying about recent events — nobody. This situation is rapidly draining away the credibility of this administration, this process.

“Against the background of the situation, it is simply not going to be possible to sustain this process unless republicans can restore their credibility. It has been eight years since the cease-fire, four years since the agreement, time enough for that transition to have been completed.”

Adams maintained his insistence that Sinn Fein and the IRA are innocent of all accusations and that the stories are being spread by elements within the British system who wanted the peace process to fail.

He said the meeting had been billed as a showdown, but it was not that kind of discussion, adding: “One of the benefits of the process is we can now express views and we don’t have to dress each other down any more.”

The UUP leader’s mood was hardly improved on Monday when one of his backbenchers, Peter Weir, a rebel anti-agreement assemblyman, finally jumped the party ship and joined the DUP.

The DUP deputy leader, Peter Robinson, welcoming Weir into the party, also revealed that legal papers had been served on the first and deputy first ministers of the Assembly (Trimble and Mark Durkan, the SDLP leader), as well as John Reid.

The papers relate to a continuing legal action being taken by the DUP to force assembly elections this autumn instead of next May. The documents alleged that Reid acted unlawfully in failing to call fresh elections last year.

Robinson said the DUP is confident of winning its legal action in the House of Lords and that in the resulting election the UUP would be defeated over its pro-agreement policies.

The DUP, he said, would then demand a new round of negotiations leading to a new political dispensation that would bar Sinn Fein from ministerial office for as long as the IRA continues to exist.

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