GOVTS PREPARE FOR IRA STATEMENT
British Direct Ruler Peter Hain has been forced to defend his
impartiality in the peace process after it emerged that he
called for a British withdrawal from the North of Ireland some
30 years ago.
Mr Hain's involvement in the Time to Go movement -- which
advocated Britain's phased withdrawal leading to a united
Ireland -- came ahead of what could be a major shift in the
stance of the Provisional IRA.
In the 1970s, Mr Hain said partition was "at the heart" of
Questioned on the matter in a BBC interview, Mr Hain said the
Good Friday Agreement had "changed everything".
"Some of those quotes are going back 20 to 30 years," he said.
"Nelson Mandela was in prison in South Africa, the Berlin Wall
was still up.
"There was no prospect at all of the completely different life
that I now see around me just today in Belfast."
Ulster Unionist leadership candidate Reg Empey said the onus was
now on the Direct Ruler to reassure unionists.
The Democratic Unionist Party's Ian Paisley Junior said Hain's
remarks were associated with "republican fanaticism". He said
hoped he now found them "embarrassing".
Mr Paisley told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "One can only
hope that he has grown up from those views, that he is now
maturing in his opinion".
Meanwhile, Mr Hain has said he believes a statement from the IRA
is "imminent", possibly by the end of the month.
The IRA is expected to respond to Sinn Fein President Gerry
Adams's call for it to pursue its aims through purely political
and democratic activity.
"I'm confident now with an imminent IRA statement expected which
I hope will be credible will open a new chapter in Northern
Ireland politics," Mr Hain said.
Following a meeting on "security" matters with 26-County Justice
Minister Michael McDowell,
Mr Hain said that the prospective IRA statement should be
unequivocal and not hurriedly issued to suit deadlines.
"What matters is that it is a credible statement, a definitive
statement and that it banishes forever paramilitary activity and
criminality from Northern Irish politics and its infection
across the Border."
"That is the crucial thing. I would rather have a credible
statement that is really deliverable on the ground than a
"We're also concerned to make sure we achieve a much better
security on both sides of the Border and the political
settlement we hope will follow a definitive and credible IRA
"We can then get on with the business of normalising life in
Northern Ireland to ensure that our co-operation is deepened and
Mr McDowell said it was crucial that the IRA give a definitive
response to calls for them to wind down their "paramilitary and
He also said it would be better if a comprehensive statement was
produced to push the peace process forward rather than a rushed
declaration which failed to address the key issues.
"There are signs that the underlying political realities are
causing the Provisional Movement in its entirety to address the
need for such a credible statement as a matter of urgency," Mr
"Obviously it is better that a credible statement emerges - even
if it is a little bit later - than [that] an incredible or a
premature statement emerges in order to meet some deadline."