Category: Archive

White House sticks to its guns on decommissioning

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Susan Falvella-Garraty

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Clinton administration still believes that a governing executive should be formed in Northern Ireland without partial IRA arms decommissioning being sought as a precondition for the inclusion of Sinn Féin.

With the March 10 deadline for formation of the executive looming, the White House was this week maintaining its belief that, with regard to the executive, the letter of the Good Friday accord should be fully implemented.

But officials have concluded that such implementation will only take place at the 11th hour. They base this view largely on the pattern developed during last year’s Stormont negotiations.

The White House maintains that the continued assertion by Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble — and other proponents of making IRA decommissioning of weapons a precondition to Sinn Féin joining the planned Executive on or after March 10 — has no merit.

"Our position," said a senior White House official, "is that there is absolutely no linkage between decommissioning and the setting up of the executive."

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"The agreement calls for decommissioning, and we believe that will take place at some point," said the official. The official would not comment on just when any turning over of weapons would take place.

Even though the stalemate over decommissioning has cast a cloud over the negotiations, Washington is still striving to find a silver lining.

"Even with a few grenades tossed at various pubs and the like, you still aren’t seeing people dying in the streets and massive bombs going off," the official said. "That’s a big difference for the people of Northern Ireland."

Another big difference between the buildup to last year’s negotiations and the current round, said the official, is the desire by the negotiators to do it themselves. "We haven’t heard calls for Bill Clinton to get on Air Force One on a rescue mission," the official stated.

Last week, the British Conservative Party leader, William Hague, weighed in with his own thoughts on the matter while on a visit to Washington. He warned that the British government was mishandling the current peace process in Northern Ireland.

"Every time we release another prisoner, we give away another negotiating card," Hague told reporters at the National Press Club.

The White House disagrees. "Most of those who have been let out were on their way to release next year anyway," the official said.

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