Irish Republican News · February 5, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

The Provisional IRA has hardened its approach to peace efforts in the North following the rejection of its historic peace offer in December and recent attempts to criminalise its cause.

In a broad and comprehensive statement on Wednesday night, the IRA said its offer last year to stand down and cease its activities was “squandered” by the Dublin and London governments who were “pandering to rejectionist unionism instead of upholding their own commitments and honouring their own obligations”.

The IRA added that it did not intend to “remain quiescent within this unacceptable and unstable situation”.

In a reassessment of its position and in response to others withdrawing their commitments, the IRA said it was taking all its proposals “off the table”.

In an informal briefing to journalists the following evening, an IRA source castigated the governments for “making a mess” of the peace process and underlined what he described as the seriousness of the situation.

The statement and subsequent briefing were intended as a wake-up call to the governments, who had seemed to abandon peace efforts until after the British general election in May.

The Dublin government, which has engaged in a war of words with Sinn Féin in recent weeks, has called for calm amid fears in some quarters that the IRA’s ceasefire may be under pressure. The collapse of the peace process in 1996 was referred to in the IRA’s statement on Wednesday, and some fear that history could repeat itself.

The IRA’s relatively trenchant statement came as little surprise to republicans. The repeated and escalating failures of talks in spite of the painful concessions made by Sinn Féin negotiators inevitably required a change of tack.

Efforts to appease unionist demands have failed repeatedly since the Good Friday Agreemnet was signed in April, 1998.

In October 2003, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble backed out of a deal to restore the Belfast Assembly at the last minute, ostensibly over the verification of IRA weapons decommissioning.

There was an even greater setback in December last year following outlandish demands by Ian Paisley’s DUP for photographs of the destruction of IRA arms in order to ‘humiliate’ the IRA.

The Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, was seen to grovel to Ian Paisley after the unionist hardliner flew into a rage over suggestions that his insistence on photographs would not work. The failure of the two governments to subsequently broker a way forward -- despite the prospect of a comprehensive and near universal agreement -- compounded the crisis.

Coupled to the continuing failure of the two governments to implement the Good Friday Agreement, the loss of republican confidence had begun to erode Sinn Féin’s support base in the North.

Crucially, the IRA has not yet concluded the two governments are negotiating in bad faith, warning only that they are “making a mess” of the process.

And despite widespread concern, the Dublin government has said it does not believe the IRA intends to break its ten-year-old ceasefire for a second time.

Efforts to restore some trust between Sinn Féin and Bertie Ahern’s administration were underway in Derry yesterday, where Dublin’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, met Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness.

As Ahern called for calm, Mr McGuinness again condemned the giant pre-Christmas Northern Bank robbery as “criminal” and hostile to his party’s peace efforts.

The IRA has said it was not involved in the raid. The British Prime Minister Tony Blair suggested this week that a disaffected group within the IRA might have been responsible. However, combative allegations by the Dublin government that Sinn Féin negotiators were in cahoots with the heist gang continue to poison the atmosphere.

Politically-motivated attacks on Sinn Féin by rival parties and the establishment media have rained down in recent days.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said his party’s role as messengers for the IRA had been abused by the British and Irish governments.

“The electoral mandate of the Sinn Féin party has been ignored. We remain wedded to our peace strategy,” he said.

Earlier this week, he stated that his party will no longer interpret IRA statements for the the governments, allowing the IRA to speak for itself.

The Taoiseach said he noted “distancing of Sinn Féin’s comments from the IRA statements” in recent days, a move which, it has been suggested, might again ease the way for political progress.

However, the report of the Independent Monitoring Commission into the bank robbery is published next week, could further escalate the crisis. It is understood to controversially recommend some form of political discrimination against Sinn Féin.

There have even been suggestions in the media that a return to war could secure the defeat of the IRA and sideline Sinn Féin.

Mr Adams today warned the two governments not take any security initiative against republicans. He added that the mishandling of recent events had been “extremely damaging to the peace process”.

There was understandably a “huge focus” on the IRA at the moment, but he urged everybody to adopt a sensitive approach on the road to peace.

He added: “They [the two governments] need to take their heads out of their asses for a start.”

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© 2005 Irish Republican News