BLAIR TURNS THE SCREW
Sinn Fein has accused British Prime Minister Tony Blair of
pandering to rejectionist unionists after he said that he does
not expect Ian Paisley's DUP to share power with Sinn Fein
without the IRA verifying it is ceasing activity.
While acknowledging Sinn Fein was committed to making the
peace process work and had "come a long way", Mr Blair said
a media briefingg: "We can't have a situation where people are
expected to sit in government with political parties attached
to active paramilitary organisations.
"That is precisely the reason why we have not had a
functioning devolved government in Northern Ireland because we
have not been satisfied about that."
Mr Blair's statement marks a further departure by the British
government from the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement,
and Sinn Fein now believes Blair is intent on breaking his
government's peace process commitments.
Party chairman Mitchel McLaughlin, speaking during a visit to
Waterford, said the British government had shown "blatant bad
"The reality is that on October 21st last year the British
government was party to an agreed sequence of events that
would have seen a functioning executive quickly established,"
"Sinn Fein, the British and Irish Governments and the Ulster
Unionists had, after negotiations, agreed and exchanged in
advance what were to be our respective public positions. Only
Sinn Fein and the IRA upheld their parts of the agreed
sequence. The positions agreed by others were then put on hold
by the decision of Mr Trimble.
"The UUP walked away from that agreement. Because of that the
British are now asking more of republicans. This is blatant
"It is quite evident that the British government has once
again shifted the goal posts, and to the applause of
In a testy response to Blair's latest policy shift, Mr
McLaughlin said the behaviour of the British government
seriously eroded "what little confidence and trust" there was
in the process.
It had made resolving the current difficulties more difficult,
"Mr Blair seeks to disingenuously place the onus for progress
solely on unionists and republicans," the Sinn Fein chairman
"However hard he tries, he cannot absolve himself or his
government from the current mess.
"It is British Government strategy and its tactical approach
to the implementation of the Agreement, which has encouraged
"Whatever responsibilities rest with Sinn Fein and the
unionists the primary responsibility at this time rests on the
two governments but particularly the British Government.
"It is intolerable that the British Government has failed to
fulfil their obligations. Progress is dependent on this.
"Confidence and trust is dependent on this."
Blair's comments followed a keynote speech by Gerry Adams at
St Malachy's College in Belfast yesterday. In his analysis of
the current situation, Mr Adams said that after 10 years of
cessations, the question of beating, splitting or humiliating
the IRA should no longer be an issue.
Unless, Mr Adams said, that no value was placed on the IRA's
support for the development of the peace process.
Mr Adams questioned whether Sinn Fein's peace strategy and
their contribution to the process, which included their
efforts to bring an end of physical force, was to be set
aside. He claimed that "the IRA was not defeated" and blamed
the problems in the peace process on the power and influence
of the British 'securocrats' -- military and security chiefs
who seek the public humiliation of the mainstream IRA.
The West Belfast MP said republicans were not exempt from
criticism and that on a number of occasions he had
acknowledged this in a very public way.
"But sometimes I have to say that some of this criticism is
"It gives succour to those who claim that no matter what
republicans do it will not be enough.
"There is criticism, for example, of what is referred to as a
lack of transparency on the IRA's acts of putting arms beyond
"This criticism ignores the enormity of this issue for the IRA
and its support base.
"But more importantly it ignores the Good Friday Agreement
position on weapons and the role of the IICD [international
"It also ignores the issue of other weapons in use in the
hands of unionist paramilitaries and British state forces, as
against the IRA's silenced arms.
"And it ignores the lengths to which the British system has
gone to protect their state agencies, which put guns into the
hands of unionist paramilitaries."
Mr Adams also said that he stood over the speech he made on
ctober 21st, despite the fact that the Ulster Unionists and
the two governments subseqbetly reneged on their commitments.
"I set out a peaceful direction for republicans because I
believe that is the proper position."
* Sinn Fein was interviewed today by a new commission set up
to monitor paramilitary activity and punish associated
An SF spokesman said it would use the meeting with the
Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) to explain its
opposition to the body, which was set up in breach of the Good