Paisley defiant over possible IRA move
Paisley defiant over possible IRA move

Hardline unionist leader Ian Paisley has declared that any new IRA peace pledges could take years to be believed, and warned the Irish Prime Minister to keep “his dirty hands” off the North.

He was speaking after 90 minutes of talks with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on Wednesday, which he described as “brutally frank, absolutely straight”.

Referring to comments by Mr Ahern about the parades issue, he said: “I did say that I didn’t want the Taoiseach to put his dirty hands on internal Northern Irish matters and I said it to his face.”

But Mr Ahern, who had separate talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair, agreed with Mr Paisley that the Provisional IRA could only remain as a “commemorative body.

Whenever an IRA statement about its future emerged, Mr Ahern said it had to be clear and unambiguous about halting all activity and completing disarming.

“It is not just words, it is deeds,” he said.

“If we get a statement on the issues I have mentioned, we would be very happy with the statement, but we would naturally enough want to see that they happen.”

On disbandment, Mr Ahern said: “ I have never used the word ‘disband’ because I think moving to a commemorative organisation is not disbandment but disbanding away from criminality or paramilitarism. I can’t see why anybody would force an organisation to do more than that.”

Mr Ahern cited historical examples of earlier UVF and IRA “old boys’ parades”, adding: “I’ve no difficulty with that.”

Mr Paisley, meanwhile, said it would take months for the IRA to first prove any promises were genuine, but his party had not set any specific timeframe.

“Everybody has their tongue out waiting for a statement from the IRA. We haven’t got our tongues out,” he said.

“What the IRA says is totally meaningless, except we have action.”

Dr Paisley appeared to mount another obstacle to progress when he told reporters: “We made clear to the Taoiseach that when he, the Southern Government, are able to say to us ‘we could share power with the IRA’, it would be time enough for the people of Northern Ireland to think of having them back in the government of Northern Ireland.”

At the same time DUP is reported to have made a further significant departure from the agenda for last December’s failed “comprehensive agreement”. The DUP is now reportedly requiring Sinn Féin’s prior approval for the North’s policing dispensation and criminal justice system.

However, Sinn Féin Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy urged the London and Dublin governments to impress on unionists the need for a resolution to the political deadlock.

Pledging his party’s total commitment to the peace efforts, he said: “The process cannot be allowed to stand still any longer. They need to make this absolutely clear to the DUP in particular.

“A failure to engage by the DUP cannot allow the process of change to become stalled.”


Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has been formally stripped of some 200,000 Euro worth of allowances as MPs at the British parliament at Westminster further suspended the party’s right to claim public funding for its 24 assembly members.

The party’s MPs were also stripped of around 700,000 Euro worth of Westminster allowances.

Asking MPs to formally approve what was described by the British government as a “fine”, Labour junior minister David Hanson said: “It gives me no pleasure at all to have to bring this matter before the House.

“We very much hope that in the period ahead we shall see movement from the Provisional IRA which ensures that the final transition to exclusively peaceful and democratic means is achieved.”


In other political news, three candidates for the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party face election next week.

Following close of nominations at 5pm yesterday, party president Lord Rogan confirmed that the names of Reg Empey, former Stormont trade minister, and Assembly members Alan McFarland and David McNarry would be put to a ballot at the party’s meeting next Friday.

Empey, a senior party negotiator and former ally of the recently departed David Trimble, is the leading candidate.

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