SWALLOWING A DEAL
The prospects of a comprehensive deal involving the IRA and Ian
Paisley's DUP were boosted tonight with just four days remaining
before the Dublin and London governments bring the current
process to a close.
Negotiations on a deal to end paramilitary activity and secure a
local power-sharing administration to Belfast have been edging
forward slowly for months.
Proposals by the London and Dublin governments for bridging the
gap between the two parties have been the subject of intense
negotiations since they were drafted two weeks ago.
Mr Paisley again said tonight he was ready to do a deal --
provided the Provisional IRA ceased to engage in illegal
activities. His comments to the media tonight were as strident
as ever, but contained suggestions that he was contemplating a
Although he aggressively denounced Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and
Martin McGuinness as "bloody and deceitful men", he said he
would have to recognise their electoral mandate if they "give up
their arms and give up their criminal acts".
He also insisted that he was delivering "an ultimatum" to Sinn
"This is not negotiations with Sinn Fein. It's an ultimatum to
Sinn Fein. Are you going to continue to be terrorists or are you
going to quit your terrorist path," he said.
His message was more nuanced than his comments to a party
meeting in Ballymena last weekend, when he declared that he
wanted to "humiliate" the IRA.
Tonight, he spoke of his difficulty at coming to an agreement to
share power with people he blamed for the death of his 'kith and
kin'. He was speaking after a meeting with the chief of the
PSNI police on proposals for British Army demilitarisation of
"I will have to do a good deal of swallowing," he said. "I
have to do a good deal of biting my lip in future days. But I'm
prepared to do that provided they cease to be terrorists."
Mr Paisley's meets with Tony Blair in Downing Street on Monday,
and he will give his response to the final draft of the
governments' proposals on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Gerry Adams said Sinn Fein had made its final
representations on the proposals.
He called on Mr Paisley "face up to his responsibilities to join
in the collective challenge of peace making", particularly his
refusal to engage in direct talks with his party.
"The days of humiliation, of second-class citizens and of
inequality are over and gone forever," Mr Adams said. "If the
DUP want to be part of a new and shared future, they will have
to replace the mindset of humiliation with a new psychology of
accommodation and generosity."
However, the DUP has sought the publication of symbolic
photographs of the IRA destroying its remaining caches of
weapons. Sinn Fein has looked to the existing IICD arms body to
supervise the decommissioning process.
Other Paisleyite demands threaten gridlock in any new Six County
administration and undermine the principle of equality set down
in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. They are alleged to allow
unionists to veto the election of nationalist ministers and
restrict the powers of cross-border bodies.
The issue of how the First and Deputy First ministers are
elected also remains in dispute.
Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony
Blair have given just four more days for a breakthrough.
Mr Ahern said tonight that ongoing negotiations had been an
"exhaustive effort" but that the work was now done and decisions
had to be made by the parties involved.
"Tony Blair and myself have to call it, to be precise, in four
days," he said.
He said the Good Friday Agreement provided the framework to
achieve republican objectives through consent, harmony and
"No deal is perfect," he said. "But what is in prospect
historic. It is also fair and reasonable."