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8 March 2001 Edition

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Wreckers' charter cannot prevail

BY MICHAEL PIERSE

The so-called `Real-IRA' yet again played into the hands of British securocrats last weekend, when they set off a bomb outside the BBC Television Centre in West London on Saturday night.

Regressing back to the comfortable ground of condemnation and calls for increased `security', MI5, Scotland Yard, the Conservative Party and British secrocracy in general were able to breath a sigh of relief. They could again rely on the `RíRá' to back up the British argument that demilitarisation and a new policing service are not feasible under current circumstances.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said the London bomb should make people more determined to prove dissidents wrong. He described the so-called `Real IRA' as a ``micro group'' intent on wrecking the peace process.

``They don't have a cohesive or coherent strategy,'' he said. ``They have a wreckers' charter. If you watch these bombs - which occur occasionally - they seem to come at crucial times in the peace process.

``We have to make the Good Friday Agreement work and we have to prove to people like these, and other people who may look towards them, that we have a way forward.''

Kelly said that the UUP ban on Sinn Féin ministers was an example of the kind of negativity in the process that is ``giving food'' to the arguments of dissidents.

Another example of this negativity has been the launch by the British government of a new recruitment campaign to the RUC, prior to political agreement on the future of policing in the Six Counties. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has also now recognised the need to take time out on the policing issue before further progress can be achieved.

``I do not think, and I have not thought for some time, that it is possible to get a conclusive and comprehensive final position on all the items which are not agreed, namely demilitarisation, decommissioning and policing,'' he said on Tuesday. Ahern added that agreement on the policing issue would help secure progress on other issues. It would be ``nicer, easier and, from a negotiating point of view, safer,'' he said, ``to conclude totally on the policing issue and move on''.

The Fianna Fáil leader conceded that he saw little chance of progress prior to incipient Westminister elections and that it would be likely that the outstanding issues would have to be resolved over the summer period. No one should even ``dream'' of a situation in which the Six-County institutions were suspended, he said.

It has also emerged this week that if the Westminister elections take place early in May, the Six-County local elections will probably also be held on the same date. Thus, pre-election jitters were all the more apparent in comments made by the SDLP this week. In an unusual outburst, the party's chairperson, Alex Attwood, accused Sinn Féin of using the policing issue to distract attention from the issue of decommissioning. In comments that were reminiscent of Patrick Mayhew's rhetoric, Attwood claimed that republicans had to be coerced into making decisions.

``My sense and understanding of republicans,'' Attwood said, ``is that if you give them the opportunity to debate, discuss and not decide, then they will take all the time in the world. But if you give them a situation where they have to decide and determine conclusively what they are going to do, then they are more inclined to do it. I think that is what we need to do in the coming days.''

Gerry Kelly accused Attwood of trying to score political points. He added it was inappropriate for Attwood to attempt to appear as ``some sort of arbitrator in the middle of ourselves and the unionists''. Kelly also challenged the SDLP to clarify their position on the policing issue.
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