Sunday Business Post


08/08/04 00:00
By Paul T Colgan

The republican movement is ready to strike a deal next month on standing down the IRA, senior republican sources have told The Sunday Business Post.
The IRA is ready to issue a final order to dump arms, but only after British prime minister Tony Blair finally abandons the unionist veto, the sources said.

In the clearest indication yet of their intentions, senior republicans said IRA disbandment was the logical outcome of the peace process.

However, they said this would only happen when Blair and the Irish government give cast-iron guarantees that the Good Friday Agreement is to be forced through against the wishes of intransigent unionists.

The republican leadership has accepted Blair's criteria for so-called ``acts of completion'' and is willing to remove the IRA from the political equation, but only as part of an overall package of safeguards for republicans and nationalists.

The two governments and the Northern parties will meet in Leeds next month in a bid to thrash out an agreement that would restore power-sharing. The talks will coincide with the tenth anniversary of the first IRA ceasefire.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams set the scene for winding down the IRA last week when he said republicans needed to remove the IRA so unionists could not use its existence as an ``excuse'' not to engage in the political process.

``This isn't posturing by republicans,'' said a senior republican source. ``Blair has called for `acts of completion'. In essence what we're saying is `that's fine'.

``But it means acts of completion by everyone, including the DUP and, in particular, the British government. The key players in this are, as ever, the two governments.

``Sinn Fein is addressing and raising the potential of what is possible in September,'' said the source.

``This is not just about what it might mean for others involved in the process, but what it means for republicans. We don't see the DUP doing the same. It's not preparing its people for going into government with Sinn Fein. You just can't mimic your constituency. You have to move it forward.''

Observers have pointed to the attendance of the DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson at a number of recent high-profile events where senior Sinn Fein representatives have also been present.

Some claim that the DUP is warming to the idea of entering government with Sinn Fein.

Donaldson said the DUP would guarantee the security of any agreement between his party and republicans in the event of IRA disbandment.

However, republicans fear that the DUP is not prepared for a deal, and claim that comments by Ian Paisley junior indicate that the party is not serious about resolving the current impasse.

Last week, Paisley said: ``We are not interested in waffle from Gerry Adams, or indeed condescension from Gerry Adams. The Ulster Unionist Party fell for that on four occasions, and put Sinn Fein in government as a result of that waffle on four occasions. We want actions, not words.''

A senior republican source said: ``You would have expected that the people who would be most annoyed with Gerry's comments would have been republicans.

``But what we have is the UUP attacking Jeffrey Donaldson and the negative comments of Ian Paisley junior.

"You get the impression that these people don't want a deal.

"Instead of taking a sensible and measured analysis of Gerry's comments, they chose to carp and begrudge.''

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