Belfast Telegraph

IRA must destroy guns to advance talks - Robinson

By Ann O'Loughlin
08 September 2004

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson yesterday called on the IRA to "destroy the guns" and said very considerable gaps exist between the sides ahead of next week's crucial peace talks at Leeds Castle.

Speaking in Dublin, he said the DUP would not turn its back on the negotiating process even if more work is required after the talks.

"Only time will tell the extent of the progress that will be made, but I believe the ingredients are in place if all parties are willing to embrace entirely peaceful and democratic means to achieve an agreed settlement," he said.

Mr Robinson, who was in Dublin to address the Small Firms Association annual conference, called on the IRA to "destroy the guns" and said terror and democracy can not co-exist. "There can be no more each-way bets. Either republicans commit to exclusively peaceful and democratic means or they will have no place in government," he said.

In the week ahead of the crucial negotiations, the politician said the DUP is unshakeable in its determination to hold the line.

"We have seen the result of allowing violence and democracy to co-exist and it has not brought peace," he said.

Too often, he said, the demand for an end to paramilitarism has been characterised as a unionist demand.

"Gerry Adams recently remarked that unionists have been using the IRA as an excuse and that our bluff should be called. Well if that is what you believe Mr Adams, then call our bluff. Put us to the test. Destroy the guns. End the terror campaign."

Mr Robinson told the business delegates that a stg£1bn (?1.5bn) peace fund should be available to the a new government in Northern Ireland.

The money could be sourced from the savings in security spending that would follow a genuine settlement.

Contrasting Northern Ireland with the republic, Mr Robinson said business in the North had been impeded by poor infrastructure, high taxes and unnecessary regulation.

"I believe the opportunity exists to finally obtain a lasting settlement which will allow us to concentrate fully on the economic and social issues which are vital to people's everyday lives."

Mr Robinson said small local firms formed the backbone of any economy. But he said businesses in the North endured a difficult environment.

"But the makeshift cardboard signs outside bombed shops with the bold scrawled lettering 'business as usual' became the defiant proclamation of the business community that refused to lie down." Mr Robinson also called for a programme of investment in the North by the Irish Government.

"The unionist community is dedicated to . . . a good neighbourly relationship between our two countries based on mutual respect and a shared agenda of social and economic betterment," he said.

Source: Irish Independent

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