IRA warns of 'serious situation'

Last year, the IRA said it would complete decommissioning

The IRA has warned the British and Irish governments not to underestimate the seriousness of the current state of the peace process.

Irish state broadcaster RTE reported a fresh statement from the organisation on Thursday.

It follows a statement on Wednesday in which the group withdrew its offer to put its weapons beyond use.

The IRA continues to deny claims it was behind the £26.5m Northern Bank raid in Belfast.

Thursday's statement said: "The two governments are trying to play down the importance of our statement because they are making a mess of the peace process.

"Do not underestimate the seriousness of the situation."

It came as the Independent Monitoring Commission presented its report on the robbery to the British and Irish governments.

The report is not expected to be published until next week.

It is thought it will concur with the police assessment that the IRA was to blame for the bank raid last December and to suggest sanctions against Sinn Fein.

Earlier, the Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy said the onus remained on the IRA to end criminality in order to move the political process forward.

Mr Murphy was speaking after meeting the prime minister on Thursday.

He said the issue was not about confrontation, but about ending criminality.

"They (the IRA) have to accept that is what is dealing a great blow at the moment, both to the peace process and the political process in Northern Ireland," he said.


"We told Sinn Fein that they are to go back and reflect upon the points that the governments have made to them - in many ways the ball is in their court - to stop the criminality which is associated with the IRA."

Chief Constable Hugh Orde said he did not believe the first IRA statement signalled a return to violence.

"We know they have the capacity. We know they have the capability. I am currently of the view that they do not have the intent," he said.

"I do not think the statement changes that. But I also make the point that this is an organisation that still exists, is well-organised and has not gone away."

Martin McGuinness said there is now a "mighty responsibility" on those involved in the peace process

Speaking outside Downing Street after meeting the prime minister, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said there was unanimity in blaming republicans for the present difficulties.

However, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said that blaming the IRA for the Northern Bank raid had "scuttled" the chance of the organisation disarming.

Irish Premier Bertie Ahern said there would be no change of focus whatsoever from either the British or Irish governments.

The two governments still wanted to deal with transparency on decommissioning and an end to criminality and paramilitarism.

At a news conference on Thursday, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said: "Confrontation is not the way forward - otherwise the peace process could be as transient as Mr Blair's time in Downing Street."

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said: "Interestingly,..... Gerry Adams refused to respond to a number questions about whether the IRA ceasefire would remain stable in the future."

Last year, the IRA said it would complete the decommissioning process within weeks and move into what it called a "new mode".

DUP leader Ian Paisley said the statement proved the IRA never had any intention of decommissioning in a credible, transparent and verifiable way.

SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell said the statement offered nothing new from the IRA.

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