NEGOTIATIONS IN PUBLIC, PROCESS IN PERIL
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP will seek to mend the
breakdown in the peace process with a keynote address at the
Stormont Assembly outside Belfast later today,
Mr Adams will respond to a controversial statement by the British
Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday in which Blair
controversially brought a previously secret negotations process
into the public domain.
In his address, Mr Blair queried the IRA's choice of words in a
recent statement and attempted to blame the IRA for his
government's failure to finally publish a Joint Declaration on
the implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The
declaration, which contains measures on human rights, equality,
the Irish language, cross-community policing and justice has now
been shelved until the IRA states "the war is over" or uses
phrases acceptable to unionists and the British government.
Significantly, however, Mr Blair has not questioned the IRA's
commitment to making the peace process work. But in an
apparently ill-advised attempt to marginalise the republican
movement in advance of key Assembly elections on May 29, Blair
may have wasted a rare opportunity to bring some closure to the
Amid speculation that the content of the IRA's most recent
statement -- which was conveyed to the two governments before
Easter -- may soon be revealed, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness
said on Saturday that the public were entitled what has
transpired, urging the publication of both the IRA statement and
the Joint Declation.
He said: "It's my view that the public deserve to have a sense of
what the IRA put to the two governments and the leader of the
Ulster Unionists (David Trimble).
"The public are entitled to have a clear understanding of the
"It will be incumbent on everybody to publish the Joint
Declaration which deals with critical issues around the rights
and entitlements of people."
On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair publicly
questioned the IRA's statement to the governments in what he
claimed was a bid to get more "clarity" -- but republicans saw
this as an attempt to force a new form of words on the IRA.
Sinn Fein leaders reacted angrily, insisting that the IRA
statement was clear and unambiguous.
Mr McGuinness said it was Sinn Fein's view that the statement
passed confidentially to the two governments two weeks ago was
unprecedented, unparalleled and final.
Confirming that talks were still taking place between his party
and the two governments, the Mid Ulster MP joined broad appeals
for the Assembly elections to go ahead as planned despite the
concerns of the Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble.
But speculation that the elections might be again suspended has
been fuelled by the British government's insistence that the vote
must be "meaningful".
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds, of the anti-Agreement Democratic
Unionists, said tonight it was clear there was "a lot of
manoeuvring going on".
"The elections must take place so people can deliver their
verdict on the raft of concessions pro-Agreement parties agreed
to give the IRA and also on the Provos' statement."
Meanwhile Sinn Fein and the rival nationalist SDLP argued over a
claim by SDLP leader Mark Durkan that the IRA Army Council was
impeding political progress.
Sinn Fein national chairman Mitchel McLaughlin accused the SDLP
leader of "donning David Trimble's clothes".
He said Mr Durkan was "ominously silent" in demanding "certainty
and clarity" from the British government on its responsibilities
to deliver on issues of human rights, policing, justice, and
"He has made no demands of [Ulster Unionist Party leader] David
Trimble on commitments on stability of the institutions,
all-Ireland Inter-Parliamentary Forum or any of the other areas
in which he has been in default of the Agreement," said
"Mark Durkan in his recent outbursts is sounding more like a
proxy for the Ulster Unionist Council than the leader of a
supposedly nationalist party."
Earlier, he accused Mr Blair of allowing David Trimble to
"exercise a unionist veto over the process".
"Mr Blair is, in reality, attempting to get a statement from the
IRA, which will satisfy the Ulster Unionist Council [UUP
leadership] - the same council which moved into the rejectionist
camp last year," he said.
"You have to ask yourself what kind of statement would be
required to achieve that task."
Meanwhile, the two main unionist parties were at loggerheads.
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble was accused by Ian Paisley's
DUP of being in a "state of blind panic" at the prospect of
having to go to the ballot box next month.
"It is perfectly clear that Trimble is running scared and is
afraid to face the electorate he has treated with such contempt
over the past five years," Mr Robinson said.
"Any further delay would be the clearest possible sign of the
government's desire to play politics with the democratic process.
It would be short sighted and ultimately futile," he added.
Mr Trimble has insisted the Assembly elections scheduled for next
month must take place "in a positive climate". He has claimed
the electorate needed to know if the political arrangements for
which they would be voting could work, and has insisted the
Stormont Assembly is "inoperable" without an appropriate
statement by the IRA.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the elections must go ahead next
month "come what may".
"It is five years since we have had assembly elections. Even if
we have no breakthrough in the process, we must go back to the
people again," he said.
"To those who argue that we would have too much uncertainty if we
had elections without a breakthrough in the process, I would ask
what certainty or semblance of process there would be if we had a
continuing impasse and elections again postponed."