Ian Paisley’s DUP has been accused of seeking to humiliate the Provisional IRA with a demand for the IRA to disarm publicly.
Sinn Féin chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said the DUP was continually moving the goalposts in the search for a deal to bring back a power-sharing Belfast Assembly after two years.
“We have heard all the stuff about Stephen Spielberg-type coverage of IRA initiatives,” said McLaughlin. “Those kind of things are designed to be provocative, and also designed to be counter-effective in terms of any goal of taking arms out of the equation,” he said.
Sinn Féin, he said, had been arguing for a strategy to address the issue of republican weapons. It wanted unionists to address the continued existence and activity of loyalist paramilitary groups instead of putting obstacles up.
“Central to the DUP position, I think, would be a humiliating scenario for republicans that simply isn’t going to happen,” Mr McLaughlin said.
Within unionism there was a fixation with the IRA and a lack of confidence within unionism that it could manage, on the basis of equality with nationalists and republicans, the political process, he argued.
“I think the goalposts get moved all the time, there is an attempt to set the threshold higher than republicans will cope with as an excuse for not actually dealing with the responsibility and the mandate we all received in the most recent election,” said Mr McLaughlin.
And he asked whether the DUP was serious about getting an agreement. “Is it another delaying tactic? Do they believe that the IRA would step forward to do anything in circumstances where the Good Friday Agreement was diluted?”
People needed to “get real”, he said. “People need to tell those who were posturing, those who were throwing obstacles in the way of bringing back the Executive the facts of life. Tell them the realities, tell them to face up to those realities, then I think we can all get on with the business of taking the gun out of Irish politics,” he said.
He said both the British and Irish governments were satisfied republicans were serious about the conflict resolution process and building the political process.
But pointing to the DUP he said “there are problems when it comes to finding partners, people able to put together a deal and in fact deliver a deal from the unionist side”.
But the DUP deputy leader insisted there must be “a visual aspect” to the decommissioning of IRA weaponry.
Peter Robinson claimed unionists had been humiliated by a reduction in the size and number of British military installations.
“We have been very clear that the days of smoke and mirror tricks are over and that there must be a visual aspect to the decommissioning of IRA weaponry,” he said.
“Sinn Féin/IRA is at the forefront of demands to have security installations dismantled in a very public way with the world’s press and media being present. Crown forces and the Unionist community have been humiliated by the way in which bases and stations have been demolished and by the treatment of those who have defended our province.”
He added: “Mitchel McLaughlin’s remarks would appear to be indicative of someone who is attempting to develop an exit strategy from the process and who is only interested in disengaging from making the commitment that Sinn Féin/IRA know must be made.”
Also this week, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams accused the DUP of making demands on the IRA when its own power-sharing credentials were “unproven”.
Mr Adams said the governments were satisfied the IRA was going to make an “unprecedented contribution” to the process in the context of a comprehensive agreement.