16 August 2001 Edition
IRA statement should surprise no one - McLaughlin
At a Belfast press conference on Tuesday, 14 August, Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin spelt out the party's response to the IRA's morning statement withdrawing proposals from the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.
No one can be surprised by this development, said McLaughlin, pointing out that the IRA statement was a direct consequence of unionist rejection of the breakthrough IICD determination and the British government's failure to create the appropriate political conditions.
``Last week began with a breakthrough determination by the IICD. The determination was widely welcomed across Ireland and further afield,'' said McLaughlin.
He pointed out that despite the historic nature of the IRA's move, David Trimble rejected the IICD's determination out of hand. In doing so he rejected the de Chastelain Commission as a route to resolving the question of arms.
``The British government then saw fit, for the second time in 18 months, to reward unionist rejectionism with the suspension of the institutions,'' he said.
The willingness of the British government to unilaterally suspend the institutions stood in marked contrast to their refusal to use their powers to ensure Sinn Féin ministers could attend the All-Ireland Ministerial Council, he pointed out.
``Despite talk of a `tactical suspension', the institutions have not been functioning properly since October last year,'' said McLaughlin. ``The clear intention of the unionists, as spelt out by David Trimble last October, is to create a crisis, blame republicans, achieve suspension and renegotiate the Agreement.
``The present crisis is the result of the British government's failure to implement the Good Friday Agreement. This failure has created the space from which unionists are attempting to subvert the Agreement.
``The onus is now clearly on the British government to live up to its responsibilities. For our part, Sinn Féin remain wedded to the Good Friday Agreement and will continue to work with and on both governments to ensure its full implementation.''
Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey later responded angrily to comments made by the British Secretary of State John Reid, criticising the IRA's decision. The British would be better employed honouring the commitments they have made rather than trying to blame republicans, said the Sinn Féin chief whip.
This situation developed because John Reid and his predecessor Peter Mandelson failed to honour commitments they had entered into. ``They created the space for the UUP to subvert and undermine the political institutions,'' said Maskey.
``When David Trimble unlawfully barred Sinn Fein Ministers from attending meetings of the All Ireland Bodies the British Secretary of State chose not to use powers given to him under the terms of the Agreement to intervene and force David Trimble to honour the Agreement,'' said Maskey, ``instead he was happy to sit back and allow the institutions to be damaged.''
Maskey said this was in stark contrast to the British response last week when the British Secretary of State was prepared to use powers outside the terms of the Agreement in order to suspend the political institutions at the behest of the UUP and in the face of an historic initiative from the IRA which had satisfied General de Chastelein and the IICD.
``There has been a clear failure of political leadership by John Reid and the British government,'' said Maskey, ``this is what Mr Reid should reflect upon and rather than attempting to divert attention away from the real problem by criticizing Sinn Fein or indeed the IRA.''
IRA withdraws proposal
The following is the full text of the IRA statement issued on Tuesday, 14 August.
``On Thursday, 8 August, we confirmed that the IRA leadership had agreed a scheme with the IICD to put arms completely and verifiably beyond use. Our initiative was a result of lengthy discussions with the IICD over a protracted period.
This was an unprecedented development which involved a very difficult decision by us, and problems for our organisation. While mindful of these concerns, our decision was aimed at enhancing the peace process.
We recognised the very broad welcome which the IICD statement received. However, the outright rejection of the IICD statement by the UUP leadership, compounded by the setting of preconditions, are totally unacceptable.
The subsequent actions of the British government, including their failure to fulfil their commitments, is also totally unacceptable.
The conditions, therefore, do not exist for progressing our proposition. We are withdrawing our proposal.
The IRA leadership will continue to monitor developments. Peacekeeping is a collective effort.''