DUP leader Ian Paisley has set out a number of preconditions ahead a planned political summit in Scotland, including that the IRA “be stood down and abandoned”.
The list of demands came in response to suggestions by Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly that a historic deal on policing could be close.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last week, Mr Kelly said an agreement and a timeframe for a new Policing and Justice Department in Belfast would allow the Sinn Féin leadership to call a party conference with a motion to fully support the PSNI.
But Mr Paisley said it was not a ‘nod or a hint’ from Sinn Féin that was required on its acceptance of policing structures. “It is full acceptance and support of the police,” he said.
Mr Paisley said those involved in what he claimed was Sinn Féin’s “multi-million pound crime empire” had to be handed over to the PSNI police “and illegal gains seized”.
“There must be no reward for support for the police. It is a precondition of democracy.
Mr Paisley also made clear that part of the DUP’s wish list involved the disbandment of the Provisional IRA.
“Republicans like all other citizens must submit themselves to the rule of law by the police and courts,” he told the shadow Assembly.
“That means the organisation of the IRA must be stood down and abandoned.”
In response, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the unionist hardliner should should stop coming up with endless lists of demands and respect other parties’ mandates.
“I just think everybody has to knuckle down and stay away from pre-conditions. We need to respect each other’s mandates. I disagree with Ian Paisley’s views fundamentally but I respect his mandate. I could set all sorts of pre-conditions and come up with a Sinn Féin wish-list.”
“However we have to set all of those matters to one side. We should all be focused on the fact that we have British ministers implementing policies which affect our constituents, who are unaccountable to our constituents.”
“We have to ask what are we going to do about it?”
Speaking to an audience of diplomats and politicians at the Council on Foreign Relations in Manhattan, Mr Adams said was not a question of whether or not the powersharing executive in the North would be re-established, but when.
But he said Ian Paisley would do a far better job than any British direct rule minister in the North of Ireland because of his local understanding,
He pointed out that the DUP leader was answerable to the people of the North of Ireland and not to the British parliament, as is the case with Peter Hain and the other direct rule ministers.
Interviewed by CBS journalist Martha Teichner, Mr Adams said that he regarded the partition of Ireland as “totally immoral”. He added: “The Good Friday Agreement is a bridge out of that.”
Asked about possible Sinn Féin participation in policing, he said: “Sinn Féin wants policing.”
He added: “The Police Service of Northern Ireland has, one could say, moved considerably along the Good Friday Agreement road to a new beginning of policing.”
There was a long-standing agreement with the British government that when a number of outstanding issues were addressed, he would go to the leadership of Sinn Féin and ask for a special ardfheis to ask the membership to “allow us to embrace what would be an acceptable policing service”. Asked why the IRA would not now disband, Mr Adams said an unnamed “very senior unionist” had told him that, “if the IRA paraded naked on the lawn of Stormont, destroyed all their weapons and committed mass hara-kiri”, it would not be acceptable to the DUP.
He also pointed out that there were “very small, almost micro-organisations on the fringes of republicanism” which had been responsible for the Omagh bombing, for example.
“How we have been able to counter those groups is, in the republican heartlands, by debating in a very open way with republican people,” he said.
Mr Adams continued: “What is required is that there isn’t a vacuum on the republican side.”
He said it was not “within my ability to disband the IRA”.
The 26-County and British governments are reported to be drawing up a back-up plan should there be a failure to agree local power-sharing between Sinn Féin and the DUP.
British Direct Ruler Peter Hain has confirmed he will formally dissolve the Belfast assembly, which was suspended almost four years ago by his predecessor John Reid, if November 24 passed without agreement. Without a deal, both the suspended Belfast assembly and the current shadow assembly are set to be closed, with salaries and expenses stopped.
With just ten weeks to go before the November 24 deadline, the DUP is still refusing to speak to Sinn Féin representatives and a deal is considered highly unlikely before the deadline. Nevertheless, intensive talks will take place at St Andrews in Scotland next month in a bid to rescue the Assembly and the other political institutions of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
The alternative plan, reportedly entitled ‘New Partnership,’ would see a greater involvement in the north’s affairs for the Dublin government, with economic ties likely to be especially strengthened.
The plan is though likely be unveiled at a special British-Irish summit if the November 24 deadline is passed without agreement.
Meanwhile, nationalist and unionist politicians have condemned a death threat against a senior 26-County civil servant working in the Six Counties.
Aine de Baroid was evacuated to Dublin following the threat last month, it has emerged. The unionist paramilitary UDA said it believes she may have been threatened by ‘dissidents’ connected to Andre and Ihab Shoukri, the north Belfast paramilitaries expelled from the organisation earlier this year, in an effort to derail the current process.
Sinn Féin assembly member Alex Maskey labelled the threat “disgraceful”.
“This threat is clearly being taken seriously by the Irish government, given the fact that all of the main unionist paramilitary gangs remain highly active and have given no indication that they are prepared to end their anti-Catholic campaigns,” he said.