IRA MUST GO, SF MUST REFORM - PAISLEY
DUP hardliners led by Ian Paisley have insisted that any
breakthrough in negotiations this month will require an overhaul
of Sinn Fein as a political party and the end of the IRA.
As the British and Irish governments attempt to devise a common
agenda for talks in southern England in the middle of this
month, the 78-year-old DUP leader Ian Paisley lashed out at
"romanist" journalists who, he said, had lied about the state
Flanked by the extreme wing of his party on Wednesday, Dr
Paisley appeared frail but determined.
"I hope to take a few thousand pounds off some newspapers who
lied about me. I would say it's just because I happen to be a
Protestant and journalists happen to be Romanists, that they
think they can take it out on me," he went on.
"I am here. This is Stormont, and I will be here. And you
fellows can rave as much as you like, but you, maybe, will be in
your coffins before I will be in mine."
He linked his party's involvement in talks with Sinn Fein to
"the disbanding of their weaponry and the end of IRA/Sinn Fein
as a political party. We have made that absolutely clear, and we
don't want any hedging. Everything else depends on that."
He characterised the IRA as "rubbish" that must be cleared away
before the DUP would talk to Sinn Fein or sign up to a deal.
But at a confused solo press conference on Thursday, he
suggested that the DUP would not share power with Sinn Fein even
were the IRA to disarm and disband.
He declared: "The IRA must be finished with, once and for all,
and that Sinn Fein must be a new party that is not tied [to the
IRA]," he told reporters. "They must be out of that, and there
must be a new political deal."
He was asked if he would talk face to face with the Sinn Fein
president, Mr Gerry Adams, were the IRA to disarm.
"Not as a Sinn Feiner," he replied. "Sinn Fein is inextricably
bound up with the IRA, and that relationship must be smashed and
gone for ever."
He suggested that, like Official Sinn Fein, which broke with
Provisional Sinn Fein in 1972, the party should change its name
Paisley's remarks have fuelled speculation over the different
approaches being taken to the talks by the DUP hardliners led by
Dr Paisley and the relative moderates in the party, such as
deputy leader Peter Robinson and UUP rebel Jeffrey Donaldson.
Meanwhile, this week has also seen determinedly upbeat
appraisals by Dublin's Foreign Minister Brian Cowen and British
Direct Ruler Paul Murphy about preparations for the talks in
just over two weeks.
Paul Murphy repeated British Prime Minister Tony Blair's
declaration that a "point of decision" had been reached. The
intervening two weeks would prove crucial, he said.
Mr Cowen said: "There is the prospect of a deal being done if
the will is there to be demonstrated and if the issues are
addressed to everyone's satisfaction."
He insisted the governments were considering only minor changes
to improve the operation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement,
despite the DUP's call for an entirely new agreement.
And the Irish Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, warned that a return of
the Stormont Assembly in Belfast could be set back by two years
unless progress is made in the talks.
Raising the stakes in advance of negotiations in Leeds Castle,
Kent, Mr Ahern said the Government believed a short period
exists in which to make progress. "We have a lot of the
preparatory work done.
"Whether we can finish it at Leeds Castle, or around then, that
is our agenda," he told journalists in Government Buildings.
The Stormont Assembly has been suspended since October, 2002.
"We believe, as we head towards the first anniversary of the
Assembly elections, that it is essential that we reach
agreement," the Taoiseach declared.
Her denied decisions could be put off until after elections to
the London parliament next year, and pointed to a quiet marching
season bar "one blip in the Ardoyne on the Twelfth".
In parallel with the talks in England, the IRA must "resolve"
disarming because the DUP would not "move on" unless that was
"Paramilitarism will have to be brought to a finality. They are
the main issues and policing," said Mr Ahern.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams admitted it would be difficult
to achieve a breakthrough while the DUP refuses to talks to his
party but nonetheless he believed agreement was possible at Leeds
Castle. He said it was inevitable that the DUP eventually would
talk but the problem was "what will happen in the meantime?"
"Whatever the DUP's stance, we, as everyone else who lives on
this island, have the right to equality. We are at this with a
good heart. We are not deflected and we know that Paisleyism
represents that aspect of unionism which is against the type of
changes which are required," added Mr Adams.