Irish Republican News · January 23, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

Rhetoric levels rise ahead of historic meeting

A meeting in London next week with Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party has been described as ``enormously significant'' and ``historic'' by the Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

The Taoiseach, along with Dublin's Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen, will meet the DUP leader and other leading party figures in the Irish Embassy next Thursday.

``This is a new phase. I think it is enormously important that this meeting will take place. It will be historic in its own terms,'' Mr Ahern said in Dublin yesterday.

The full review of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement will begin on February 3rd, though Mr Cowen repeated yesterday it would not involve the renegotiation of its fundamental elements.

He was speaking after a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference with British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy.

SDLP Assembly member Dr Alasdair McDonnell said next week's meeting between the DUP and Mr Ahern was welcome but was 38 years too late.

McDonnell said: ``Ian Paisley is now engaged in a Sunningdale for very slow learners.

``If Paisley had softened his stance and adopted an intelligent approach to the Irish Government and North South relationships in the late 1960s instead of throwing snowballs at Sean Lemass, many of the 3,500-plus lives that were lost during the troubles would have been saved.''

But in what was seen by some as a significant speech, the DUP's Gregory Campbell has suggested that the review had the potential to finally resolve the problems the Six Counties has faced for the past 30 years. However, he said this would require ``the end of the IRA''.

He was speaking at a meeting about the peace process organised by the World Economic Forum, a gathering of global power-brokers in Davos, Switzerland.

``For the past five years Sinn Féin have not known how much they needed to do to get into government. This has encouraged them to do as little as possible. Ultimately this was fatal to the process,'' Mr Campbell said.

``The time has come for the IRA to decide whether it is to be peace or violence - they cannot have both.

``Until they resolve that dilemma one way or another we cannot allow the process to be held to ransom.''

He said there was an opportunity for progress but there would be no negotiation on the issue of the IRA.

``Let me make it quite clear. Let there be no room for ambiguity on this issue. We are not in the business of negotiating for movement from the IRA,'' Mr Campbell said.

``We will only accept the end of the IRA as a condition to Sinn Féin's entry to any executive. This is not simply a demand of the DUP or unionists in Northern Ireland. It is a demand of the British and Irish governments.''

Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness, who also addressed the forum, said the British government could not allow an anti-agreement minority to override the wishes of the majority of people in Ireland.

He said the British government should immediately lift its unilateral suspension of the political institutions and proceed with the agenda of change which it committed itself to more than five years ago in the Good Friday Agreement.

As Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams met senior politicians in Washington last night, DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson warned republicans his party would adopt a tougher stance than Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble.

``Completion means completion. Holding on to weapons of mass destruction is not an option, Mr Adams. These illegal weapons have murdered thousands. You will not get into government carrying them with you.

``You choose, Mr Adams: is it guns or government?''

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© 2004 Irish Republican News