BLAIR PLAYS ORANGE CARD
Martin McGuinness has reacted angrily to comments made by the
British Prime Minister at a media briefing on Wednesday morning.
Sinn Fein's Chief Negotiator said he was dismayed by the approach
of Tony Blair and by his ability to be "reckless in many ways
with what is a very difficult and very sensitive situation". He
was critical of Tony Blair's decision to state publicly his
interpretation of the IRA statement given to the two governments
last week and angry at the accusation that the IRA statement was
unclear. "There is a difference between clear and unambiguous and
what is unacceptable to David Trimble," he said.
"I am extremely disappointed that the British Prime Minister is
prepared to come out on the public airwaves and give his
interpretation of what the IRA said. I don't think that that is
conducive to a proper, respectful negotiation," said McGuinness.
"I think he needs to ask himself, whether or not the approach
that he has adopted is conducive to getting the type of result
that, I think, this process needs."
McGuinness was responding to a briefing in Downing Street at
which Blair publicly posed three questions about the IRA's
Those questions were:
- What do the IRA mean when they say that their strategies and
disciplines will not be inconsistent with the Good Friday
Agreement? Does it mean that there would be an end to all
activities, including targeting, procurement of weapons and
so-called punishment beatings?
- When they say that they are committed to putting arms beyond
use through the Decommissioning body, does that mean all arms?
- When they say they support the Good Friday Agreement and want
it to work, does that mean that if the two governments and all
the other parties fulfil their obligations under the Good Friday
Agreement and the Joint Declaration, that means the process is
complete and there is final closure to the conflict?
Blair claimed the questions were very clear and that the process
needed clarity and not ambiguity. David Trimble responded
predictably, saying that he agreed with the Prime Minister and
that if an election took place in May without a clear statement
from the IRA, then there would be a "crash".
Martin McGuinness rejected the accusation that the IRA statement
was unclear, and said he found it interesting that the British
Prime Minister would use the terms clarity and ambiguity.
"Myself and others within the Sinn Fein leadership have sought
clarity from the British government on a number of issues dealing
with the Joint Declaration, and it's clear that the declaration
is conditional, qualified, and at best a process towards
implementation. We have sought clarity from David Trimble on the
sustainability of institutions, we cannot get clarity from him on
a date for the transfer of powers on policing, we couldn't get
clarity from him on the establishment of a North-South
inter-parliamentary forum, on the whole issue of a single
Equality bill, and a Human Rights bill.
McGuinness said he believed that the IRA statement had clarity.
"The reality is that the IRA statement is clear and unambiguous,
the difficulty is that Tony Blair appears to be saying that it is
not acceptable, those are two different concepts.
McGuinness also expressed frustration with David Trimble, saying
the UUP leader wanted a personal victory.
"The unionists have been saying for 25 years that there was no
war. The real dynamic of this process is divisions that exist in
unionism - that is the battle that is being fought out. David
Trimble has decided - and unfortunately the two governments have
decided to go along with it - that he needs a victory over the
IRA, so that he can march in triumphalist fashion to the
elections on 29 May. I don't think that that is the way to
resolve the conflict in this country and anybody who thinks that
needs to re-evaluate their contribution to this process."
He added that he did not think unionists could be pleased.
"Trimble told us in recent months that words from republicans
were meaningless, and the attitude within the constituency that I
come from, and the rest of the North, is that nothing satisfies
"The issue of decommissioning was a perfect example of this. I
broke people's hearts on that issue. We all thought that the
unionists would see the decommissioning that took place, embrace
it and run with it, and what do they do? They put it in their
pocket and started making more demands.
"In my view, no matter what the IRA says over the coming days,
it's not going to be enough for Trimble, and I don't think that
that's a game that should be played with this process."
When the interviewer pointed out that he appeared angry,
McGuinness said: "Yes, I am very angry. I am angry that we have a
British Prime Minister going on TV and revealing important
aspects and dimensions of very sensitive negotiations.
"At the end of the day, he lives in London and I live in Ireland,
and I have a responsibility to real people here who have been
denied their rights and entitlements for far too long. Now we
have to listen to an approach suggesting that those people will
not see the publication of the Joint Declaration.
McGuinness said the implementation of the Agreement should not
rest upon the dictat of the unionists.
"I have to say I am fed up to the back teeth of British
government ministers and indeed, some Irish ministers, telling us
that the Good Friday Agreement cannot be implemented because of
opposition coming from unionist political leaders. That is no way
to pursue a peace process."
McGuinness said, however, that he remained hopeful about the
process as a whole. "I think there is hope because I think we're
going to succeed, e said. I think the peace process will contnue,
I think republicans will continue to contribute to that and I
think, no matter how long it takes, eventually we will succeed.
It's a question really of when."
Gerry Kelly also reacted angrily to Blair's statements.
"It has been made clear by Gerry Adams that the IRA statement is
clear and unambiguous. As you would expect it does not use
British or unionist words but it does set out in clear and
unambiguous terms the IRA's position. Both the British and Irish
governments have recognised the positive nature of the statement
and crucially the clear desire of the IRA to see the peace
process work. Of course we have to have clarity and certainty in
this process - and in my view the IRA statement is the clearest
and most certain element in this current negotiation.
"We have no certainty or clarity from the loyalist
paramilitaries, who only last week were involved in orchestrating
attacks on Catholic homes in Belfast- and no attention or focus
on those groups at all.
"So of course we need certainty - but certainty all round - not
just from the IRA."