British to blame for crisis - IRA
Exclusive IRA Interview
In an exclusive interview with An Phoblacht, a spokesperson for Oglaigh na hÉireann apportions responsibility for the current deep crisis firmly at the feet of the British Government for giving in to the unionist veto. The IRA calls on the British Government to take immediate steps to rescind the suspension, reestablish the institutions, and repair the damage they have caused. (Full text of interview, Page 3)
Phoblacht (AP): The peace process has moved into a deep crisis in the past week. The IRA have been blamed by some politicians and sections of the media for this. What is your view on this?
Óglaigh na hÉireann (IRA): The peace process is undoubtedly in deep crisis. This has been caused by the suspension of the political institutions by British Secretary of State Peter Mandelson. He has succumbed to the Unionist veto, so responsibility for this crisis rests squarely on his shoulders. We should not forget, however, that the peace process has been in a state of almost continual crisis caused by the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party's refusal to support the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
AP: So, are you saying the crisis is not around or caused by the decommissioning issue?
IRA: The crisis is neither about nor caused by the decommissioning issue. John Major introduced the issue only after the IRA had announced its cessation in 1994. It was not part of the cessation. The British Government knows this.
Major used the issue to undermine and diminish the IRA initiative, prevent forward movement, and in turn used it in a failed attempt to defeat the IRA.
It was first used as a precondition to delay the beginning of negotiations. It has been used again and again by the leadership of the UUP in support of their own narrow agenda to renegotiate the Good Friday Agreement. This is all about preventing change and maintaining the political status quo.
AP: What is the IRA view on the issue of arms?
IRA: We have stated publicly that the issue of arms has to be dealt with in an acceptable way and that this is a necessary objective of a genuine peace process. In fact, it was the IRA who took the first step to remove the guns from Irish politics by calling a cessation.
The issue of arms cannot be resolved on terms dictated by the British government or the unionists.
AP: Why did the IRA send a representative to meet with the IICD?
IRA: The IRA leadership's decision to appoint a representative to enter into discussions with the IICD has to be viewed in the context and outcome of the Mitchell Review. Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the peace process had moved from one crisis to the next, all created by unionist obstruction, culminating in the July spectacle of the Ulster Unionists refusing to turn up for the establishment of the Executive. The process had ground to a halt, so, in November we appointed a representative to meet the IICD as part of a series of events, including the establishment of the political institutions, designed to break the logjam.
AP: Unionists and Peter Mandelson have suggested that there was some agreement or understanding at this point that actual decommissioning would take place in January.
IRA: Let me make this crystal clear, and I refer you to our statement of Saturday, 5 February in which we stated that the IRA had never entered into any agreement, undertaking or understanding at any time with anyone on any aspect of decommissioning. Neither the British government, the Irish government or the UUP have contradicted this.
AP: Can you give details of your discussions with the IICD?
IRA: Our representative met with the IICD on four occasions since last November. There were also a number of telephone contacts. The discussions were substantive and constructive. Our representative put forward some propositions and set out a context in which the issue of arms could be dealt with in an acceptable way.
AP: Any detail of the propositions?
IRA: There is no point in outlining the detail of the propositions because as you know they have been withdrawn as a result of Peter Mandelson's unilateral decision in suspending the political institutions.
AP: Will the IRA recommence its engagement with the IICD?
IRA: Well, the IICD was set up by the two governments to deal with the arms issue. It issued a report on 11 February which the British Government binned. What is the point engaging with a body which the British Government has rendered irrelevant?
AP: With the peace process in deep crisis, what are the prospects for progress?
IRA: The potential of the peace process is that it can deliver real and lasting peace. It contains the ability to bring about meaningful change and to remove the causes of conflict. Its potential has been seriously damaged by the suspension of the institutions. Responsibility for this rests with the British Government. The position can only be rectified by a rescinding of the suspension and a reestablishment of the institutions. The British Government must take immediate steps to bring this about and repair the damage they have caused.