Reynolds admits dramatic role in ceasefire

25/08/2004 - 20:11:42

Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds held secret talks with loyalists in their Belfast heartland 10 years ago to secure their ceasefire, he said tonight.

Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds held secret talks with loyalists in their Belfast heartland 10 years ago to secure their ceasefire, he said tonight.

As former US President Bill Clinton prepared to make another triumphant return to Belfast on his book tour, Mr Reynolds confirmed he set foot on the city’s Shankill Road while he was Taoiseach and months before the 1994 IRA ceasefire.

Mr Reynolds told a television interview broadcast in Northern Ireland: “In the run up to the (IRA) ceasefire I had a copy of the statement to be used by the Republican Movement on August 31 at 11am.

“I also had prior agreement with the Combined Loyalist (Military) Command to a complete loyalist ceasefire but it would not come into operation until the IRA ceasefire had at least passed six weeks.”

The Ulster Defence Association, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Red Hand Commando announced a joint ceasefire through their umbrella body, the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) on October 16 1994.

Their statement came six weeks after the Provisional IRA announced its cessation.

At a dramatic press conference, former UVF leader Gusty Spence read a statement expressing “abject and true remorse” to the victims of loyalist violence.

But months before the CLMC ceasefire, Mr Spence took part in a clandestine meeting with the then Taoiseach in the Berkeley Court Hotel in Dublin to give loyalists an input into the peace process.

Mr Reynolds revealed when he embarked on efforts to secure the ceasefires in Northern Ireland he was advised at first not to engage loyalist leaders.

He told Ulster Television: “I was told by everybody it was a waste of time. There was no point in talking to them. I spoke to Gusty Spence on the phone. They came down to a Dublin hotel, a well known hotel and I went to the Shankill Road and between all of us we worked it out.”

The former Fianna Fáil leader, who along with former British Prime Minister John Major published the Downing Street Declaration in 1993, said his Shankill Road meeting involved Mr Spence and David Ervine of the Progressive Unionists.

Mr Reynolds also said paragraph five of the declaration, offering assurances to unionists that the Irish state would address anything which threatened their way of life, was crafted during the Shankill Road meeting.

The loyalist leadership, he said, was true to its word in delivering a combined ceasefire exactly six weeks after the IRA’s.

However, within three years the Combined Loyalist Military Command broke up, a faction within the UVF split to form the Loyalist Volunteer Force and a series of bitter, bloody feuds involving members of the UDA flared.

Mr Reynolds said he was “disappointed” by the break up of the CLMC and the divisions and criminality currently within loyalism.

“Now you would not know who to contact,” he lamented. “There appears to be a lot of criminality which has come into it.”

The former Taoiseach, who controversially praised republican Joe Cahill following his recent death for his role in the peace process, described Gusty Spence as an “honourable man”.

His revelations came on the eve of another visit to Belfast by former US President Bill Clinton and his wife, New York Senator Hillary Clinton.

Mr Clinton, who met Bertie Ahern in Dublin tonight, will sign copies of his memoirs in a Belfast city centre bookstore.

However he is also meeting political leaders in the province in a bid to persuade them to reach agreement at next month’s crucial talks to restore the power sharing executive and Assembly.

Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern will chair three days of intensive negotiations at Leeds Castle in Maidstone from September 16.

Hillary Clinton is also due to receive an honorary degree from the University of Ulster in Derry tomorrow where she will deliver a lecture in memory of veteran US Democratic Congressman Tip O’Neill.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?