Arms move could bolster 'progressive unionism'
Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness has suggested
that any future IRA move on arms should be more convincing for
Any deal to restore the peace process is likely to involve a
third move by the IRA to put arms beyond use in co-operation
with the international arms decommissioning body.
Unionists have insisted that the lack of detail from General
John de Chastelain's decommissioning body about the last two
IRA acts of disarmament has diminished unionist confidence in
the peace process.
At the weekend, Mr McGuinness has acknowledged that this is a
serious issue for unionists. and said his party was aware that
the lack of transparency in past acts by the IRA had caused
He said General John de Chastelain had the power to bolster
the political process - though how public confidence could be
boosted was a matter for the general and the IRA.
"We are not immune to the arguments that are being made, but
at the same time we are also conscious that there are people
out there in the anti-agreement unionist side who, no matter
what is said and done, will not be satisfied," he told BBC
Radio on Saturday.
Mr McGuinness said he did not want to damage the "prospect of
progressive forces within unionism" in a possible assembly
"Let me put it like this - I don't want to see the DUP, I
don't want to see the negative forces within the Ulster
Unionist Party, moving into the ascendancy," he said.
"I think that would be an absolute disaster for the peace
process, a disaster for the Good Friday Agreement."
However, there were further problems for peace efforts after
the Ulster Unionist Party's executive effectively rejected the
Joint Declaration of the Irish and British governments
The document, proposed in May 2003 as a means of overcoming
the current political impasse in the North, contains a plan
for the final implementation of the 1998 Good Friday
The UUP decision appeared to surprise and dismay the Sinn Fein
leadership, which had insisted that the hardline wing of the
UUP had been soundly defeated at a recent meeting of the
party's ruling Ulster Unionist Council.
The joint declaration included five annexes dealing with
demilitarisation, policing and justice, human rights and
equality, on-the-run political prisoners and the controversial
international monitoring commission, which has also been
opposed by Sinn Fein.
The UUP said in a statement that the party would not be bound
by the document, which it insisted did not provide "a
satisfactory basis for progress".
There were reports of a difficult meeting between the Sinn
Fein and Ulster Unionist leaderships at the weekend. Mr
McGuinness and the Sinn Fein president, Mr Gerry Adams,
expressed their opposition to a new Ulster Unionist resolution
when they met the UUP leader, Mr David Trimble, on Saturday,
according to the reports.
Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness were said to be annoyed at the
motion adopted by the UUP's 110-member executive on Friday
calling for "radical change" to the Joint Declaration.
The resolution was being portrayed as a victory for the anti-
Good Friday Agreement camp within the UUP, and it appeared
that three dissident MP would be returning to the party fold.
Supporters of Mr Trimble, however, have stressed that the
motion does not explicitly reject the declaration. Mr Trimble
described the motion as "nuanced".
The apprent outbreak of peace within the long-feuding Ulster
Unionist Party was being seen by some commentators as a
necessary convenience for the expected Assembly election next
month. Others, however, believe that the party is quietly
moving to an anti-Agreement line, and Mr Trimble's hold on the
party leadership is increasingly tenuous.
Meanwhile, British and Irish leaders failed to make any
progress in talks on the margins of a European Union Summit
over the weekend.
Afterwards, Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
warned that it would be "ferociously difficult" to enter into
elections unless outstanding problems in the North were
Mr Ahern said all sides knew what they had to do to trigger
the elections and get the assembly and its power-sharing
"We really need parties to move into a decision-making stage
on this. You can only do so much talking," he said.
"It will be ferociously difficult to go into elections if the
atmosphere is not positive and where we can't see our way
through it," he added.