IRA ANGER AT WASTED OPPORTUNITY
The Provisional IRA has hardened its approach to peace efforts
in the North following the rejection of its historic peace offer
in December and recent attempts to criminalise its cause.
In a broad and comprehensive statement on Wednesday night, the
IRA said its offer last year to stand down and cease its
activities was "squandered" by the Dublin and London governments
who were "pandering to rejectionist unionism instead of
upholding their own commitments and honouring their own
The IRA added that it did not intend to "remain quiescent within
this unacceptable and unstable situation".
In a reassessment of its position and in response to others
withdrawing their commitments, the IRA said it was taking all
its proposals "off the table".
In an informal briefing to journalists the following evening, an
IRA source castigated the governments for "making a mess" of
peace process and underlined what he described as the
seriousness of the situation.
The statement and subsequent briefing were intended as a wake-up
call to the governments, who had seemed to abandon peace efforts
until after the British general election in May.
The Dublin government, which has engaged in a war of words with
Sinn Fein in recent weeks, has called for calm amid fears in
some quarters that the IRA's ceasefire may be under pressure.
The collapse of the peace process in 1996 was referred to in the
IRA's statement on Wednesday, and some fear that history could
The IRA's relatively trenchant statement came as little surprise
to republicans. The repeated and escalating failures of talks in
spite of the painful concessions made by Sinn Fein negotiators
inevitably required a change of tack.
Efforts to appease unionist demands have failed repeatedly since
the Good Friday Agreemnet was signed in April, 1998.
In October 2003, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble backed out
of a deal to restore the Belfast Assembly at the last minute,
ostensibly over the verification of IRA weapons decommissioning.
There was an even greater setback in December last year
following outlandish demands by Ian Paisley's DUP for
photographs of the destruction of IRA arms in order to
'humiliate' the IRA.
The Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, was seen to
grovel to Ian Paisley after the unionist hardliner flew into a
rage over suggestions that his insistence on photographs would
not work. The failure of the two governments to subsequently
broker a way forward -- despite the prospect of a comprehensive
and near universal agreement -- compounded the crisis.
Coupled to the continuing failure of the two governments to
implement the Good Friday Agreement, the loss of republican
confidence had begun to erode Sinn Fein's support base in the
Crucially, the IRA has not yet concluded the two governments are
negotiating in bad faith, warning only that they are "making a
mess" of the process.
And despite widespread concern, the Dublin government has said
it does not believe the IRA intends to break its ten-year-old
ceasefire for a second time.
Efforts to restore some trust between Sinn Fein and Bertie
Ahern's administration were underway in Derry yesterday, where
Dublin's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, met Sinn
Fein's Martin McGuinness.
As Ahern called for calm, Mr McGuinness again condemned the
giant pre-Christmas Northern Bank robbery as "criminal" and
hostile to his party's peace efforts.
The IRA has said it was not involved in the raid. The British
Prime Minister Tony Blair suggested this week that a disaffected
group within the IRA might have been responsible. However,
combative allegations by the Dublin government that Sinn Fein
negotiators were in cahoots with the heist gang continue to
poison the atmosphere.
Politically-motivated attacks on Sinn Fein by rival parties and
the establishment media have rained down in recent days.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said his party's role as
messengers for the IRA had been abused by the British and Irish
"The electoral mandate of the Sinn Fein party has been ignored.
We remain wedded to our peace strategy," he said.
Earlier this week, he stated that his party will no longer
interpret IRA statements for the the governments, allowing the
IRA to speak for itself.
The Taoiseach said he noted "distancing of Sinn Fein's comments
from the IRA statements" in recent days, a move which, it has
been suggested, might again ease the way for political progress.
However, the report of the Independent Monitoring Commission
into the bank robbery is published next week, could further
escalate the crisis. It is understood to controversially
recommend some form of political discrimination against Sinn
There have even been suggestions in the media that a return to
war could secure the defeat of the IRA and sideline Sinn Fein.
Mr Adams today warned the two governments not take any security
initiative against republicans. He added that the mishandling of
recent events had been "extremely damaging to the peace
There was understandably a "huge focus" on the IRA at the
moment, but he urged everybody to adopt a sensitive approach on
the road to peace.
He added: "They [the two governments] need to take their heads
out of their asses for a start."