IRA 'must be brought to heel': Paisley

22/01/2005 - 08:43:19

The IRA must be brought to heel for the Northern Bank Robbery before any new peace talks, Ian Paisley has warned.

The Democratic Unionist leader emerged from meeting Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde yesterday more convinced than ever that the Provisionals pulled off the £26.5m (€38m) heist.

Mr Paisley insisted that a fresh attempt to broker a power-sharing agreement with Sinn Féin was off until cast-iron guarantees are given that all paramilitary guns and crime operations are scrapped for good.

He declared: “There was a golden opportunity which they refused. Maybe they saw the gold of the Northern Bank was more precious than the gold of the Assembly.”

He added: “The position is that we cannot (now) deal with IRA/Sinn Féin until they decommission their weapons and give up criminality.

“There’s no chance of a deal until the IRA are brought to heel and made amenable to the law. Seeing is believing that they are going, all criminality must cease, and the people of Northern Ireland must be convinced that they have ceased.

“That will take more than one month to convince us. I would say it will take many months.”

The raid, on December 20, the biggest of its kind in British history, came just after a major push to revive the devolved administration at Stormont came agonisingly close to success.

London and Dublin believed they had a deal that would see unionists and republicans run an Executive together at the Northern Ireland Assembly.

But the plan was derailed at the eleventh hour amid IRA resistance to DUP demands requiring photographic proof they had destroyed all their weapons.

Even though republicans have categorically rejected Mr Orde’s view that the Provos cleared the vaults at the Northern’s Belfast HQ, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair and have accepted his assessment.

Their fury was compounded by the belief that the robbery was being planned at the same time the political negotiations involving Sinn Féin leaders were at a critical stage.

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