Trimble calls for 'savage' attack on SF
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has called for the British
government to use its "savage" and "significant" powers
His party is pressing the British government to recall the
Assembly with a view to imposing "sanctions" -- political
discrimination -- on Sinn Fein.
This follows unsubstantiated allegations, endorsed by both
Dublin and London, of the involvement of the Provisional IRA and
Sinn Fein negotiators in the robbery of a Belfast bank before
The allegations are part of a concerted political attack on Sinn
Fein in advance of the British general election in May.
Political opponents, aided by the two governments, are
determined to prevent it from becoming the largest party in the
North of Ireland.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has rejected the accusations as
Next week, British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy is reported to be
planning to issue a sanction against Sinn Fein in the British
parliament next week.
And Ulster Unionists are keen for what a spokesman called
"centre parties" -- themselves and the nationalist SDLP -- to
regain control of the talks process.
According to the SDLP, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair,
has already pressed the party to consider an arrangement with
the Ulster Unionists.
Yesterday Trimble said legislation enacted in 2003 could
facilitate the exclusion of Sinn Fein from government.
If the recalled Assembly failed to pass an exclusion motion the
British government should then use its own powers to exclude
Sinn Fein and allow the other parties to continue without them.
"The teeth are in this process and have to be used. If the
Secretary of State does not announce that next Wednesday then I
think huge damage will be done to his credibility, the
government's credibility and the process as a whole," Mr Trimble
Republican protesters blockaded key government buildings
More than 100 Sinn Fein activists occupied the foyers and front
entrances of Windsor House and Bedford House in Belfast city
centre. Similar protests took place in Derry.
Doors were chained and padlocked, and workers prevented from
entering or leaving the buildings. The protesters carried
placards and banners saying "143,000 voters are not wrong -- we
will not be criminalised".
Meanwhile, Gerry Adams has said that reports of remarks he made
in Madrid on Wednesday are misleading. He denied that a comment
he made on Spanish radio was an attempt to distance his party
from the Provisional IRA on the matter.
During an interview, he said: "No one knows who robbed the
Northern Bank. An opinion has been given that the IRA was
involved. The IRA has said it was not and I believe them.
"Now, maybe I'm wrong. What I can say categorically is that Sinn
Fein was not involved."
A number of news media seized on the "maybe I'm wrong" remark
report that Mr Adams was experiencing doubts about the IRA.
Mr Adams released a statement on Wednesday night saying:
"Remarks I made in Madrid in respect of the Northern Bank
robbery have been misrepresented.
"I made it clear that the IRA has said it was not involved and
that I believed its disclaimer.
"Any other interpretation of my remarks is malicious and
In other related news, a legal challenge by Sinn Fein to an
earlier British decision to cut its political funding has been
refused by the High Court.
Republicans had argued that Mr Murphy's decision to fine the
party 120,000 pounds over allegations of IRA activity in 2002
was discriminatory. The allegations of an IRA 'spy ring',
which led to the collapse of the Belfast Assembly, were never
Sinn Fein pointed out the purpose of the funds was to assist the
political parties to negotiate a resolution of the peace
stalemate during the suspension of the Belfast Assembly.
Speaking outside the court, Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said: "In
the years that republicans have gone to the courts, they would
not be overly surprised at the kind of political decision made
today - and let me be clear it was a political decision.
"The sanctions were wrong in the first place, they do not work
and the British government should remove the sanctions.
"The judgment was a political judgment, it is not within the
Good Friday Agreement."