Tags: IRA | Reaffirms | Promises | But | Unionists | Want | Action

IRA Reaffirms Promises, But Unionists Want Action

Thursday, 20 September 2001 12:00 AM

Peace talks in Northern Ireland have been held up for six weeks by arguments over the status of the IRA's arsenal and decommissioning timelines.

In a statement published Thursday, the IRA reaffirmed that it was willing to put its arsenal - which includes guns, explosives and heavier military weapons such as rocket launchers - verifiably out of use.

"The IRA's commitment (to decommissioning) is without question. However, as we have said before, peace making and peace keeping is a collective effort," the statement read. "It is our considered view that the Irish peace process can succeed."

The statement, which also included a message of condolence to the victims of last week's terrorist attacks in the United States, was signed with the IRA's traditional anonymous moniker, "P. O'Neill".

Northern Ireland relations are under increased strain after last week's attacks because of the IRA's involvement in terrorism within Britain. But hopes remained for a breakthrough in the peace process along the lines of the ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians announced last weekend.

The leaders of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, hailed Thursday's statement.

"While there are many difficulties it remains my firm view that none of these matters are intractable," said Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. "What is required is focused political action."

Unionist parties, however, demanded that the IRA statement be backed up by concrete moves towards decommissioning. The Ulster Unionists repeated their demands for verifiable and visible destruction of IRA weapons. The current crisis was triggered six weeks ago by Unionist leader David Trimble's resignation as the province's leader in protest over the IRA's position.

The Democratic Unionist Party also denounced the IRA statement.

"This is the IRA once again seeing if they can bluff Tony Blair and others into letting them off the hook," said the party's deputy leader, Peter Robinson. "The world is about to turn on international terrorism. The IRA is part of that international terrorist network."

Republicans faced another political stumbling block last month when it was revealed that three IRA members suspected of involvement in guerrilla activity were arrested in Colombia.

The U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland, Richard Haass, said that there would be "serious consequences for the role of the United States in the peace process" if the IRA did not sever all links to revolutionary groups in the South American nation. But the IRA insisted in Thursday's statement that the three men were not sent to Colombia to train or to engage in any military action.

The peace process faces another deadline this Saturday, when U.K. Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid will have to make a decision on the status of the province's legislative assembly.

Reid is faced with two basic choices: use legal methods to continue the suspension of the assembly in hopes that peace talks will progress, or call new elections.

Meanwhile, protests continued in Belfast after seven men were arrested Wednesday on public order offenses in connection with the unionist blockade of a Catholic school. Six of the men appeared in court Thursday.

The blockade, sparked by tensions between Catholics and Protestants in the mixed Ardoyne neighborhood, had temporarily ceased after last Tuesday's terrorist attacks. But protesters again took to the streets this week and a quick end to the dispute is looking increasingly unlikely.

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Peace talks in Northern Ireland have been held up for six weeks by arguments over the status of the IRA's arsenal and decommissioning timelines. In a statement published Thursday, the IRA reaffirmed that it was willing to put its arsenal - which includes guns, explosives...
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2001-00-20
Thursday, 20 September 2001 12:00 AM
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