IRA activity only barrier to power sharing

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British PM Tony Blair say the only thing now holding up power sharing in Northern Ireland is “the continuing paramilitary activity and criminal activity of the IRA”.

Meanwhile, The British government should consider giving the Northern Ireland Assembly a role which just falls short of full blown devolution, according to Democratic Unionist deputy leader Peter Robinson, who says the British government is considering interim measures for the Assembly.

From Breakingnews.ie

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair today warned the IRA that it must give up all criminal activity if there was to be any return of power sharing in Northern Ireland.

Following talks in Downing Street the two men said the IRA’s continuing criminal and paramilitary activity was the sole remaining obstacle to a peace settlement in the North.

Mr Blair and Mr Ahern were briefed by Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde and Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy on the £26.5m (€38m) Northern Bank raid.

They said they accepted the conclusion of both police forces that it was the work of the Provisional IRA.

“The obstacle now to a lasting and durable settlement in Northern Ireland is the continuing paramilitary activity and criminal activity of the IRA,” Mr Blair said.

“It has got to stop. It has got to stop in its entirety. There cannot be any compromise with that.

“If it is given up the process can move forward on an inclusive basis.”

His words were echoed by Mr Ahern who told reporters in No 10: “The reality of the situation is that until we have got an end to criminality we cannot win the trust and confidence of the collective parties to move forward.”

Mr Blair acknowledged that the bank raid may have been the result of divisions within the republican movement.

However, he said Sinn Féin and the IRA were now alone in not accepting that there must be a commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means if the process was to move forward.

He said the unionist community now accepted the principle of power sharing with nationalists provided they abandoned criminality and paramilitary activities.

“There cannot be any going back on that,” he said.

Mr Blair said he hoped there would be a period of “hard and difficult reflection” by the republican leadership.

“There is almost a simplicity about the present situation,” he said.

“There is no way forward by compromise, fudge, ambiguity on this issue any more.

“There is only one way forward. Everybody gets on to the democratic bus and goes forward on that track or not.”

Mr Ahern added: “The questions are very clear. They are very simple. If they (republicans) are prepared to engage and are prepared to move forward we can get on but we need that response back from them.”

  • James

    “Mr Blair acknowledged that the bank raid may have been the result of divisions within the republican movement.”

    So maybe Blair was talking to the wrong bunch?

  • puddinhead

    I agree with both leaders comments. It is time SF/IRA gave up all criminal behavior and came on board.
    The alternative is Adams and Mc Guinness should step aside as they have delivered nothing and clearly are not in control of SF/IRA.

  • PaddyCanuck

    James, What do you mean wrong bunch?

    Sorry to state the obvious, but: Sinn Fein is the largest Nationalist party in the North, they owe their position to their mandate, the mandate cannot be ignored.

  • Davros

    If Adams stepped aside then I suspect we would see
    exactly the same shambles as mentioned when his equivalent in the SDLP stood down.

  • PONeill

    I dont think that SF can guarantee this. Adams and McGuinness will be unable to give that guarantee convincingly enough to gain the trust of Unionism – thats the real problem here.
    Decommissioning weaponry will only be acceptable with evidence. Are SF able to provide this from the IRA – I dont think they will be able to.
    Long term – unless the IRA become very very quiet, SF will always be held to question on any sinister paramilitary activity.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    PONeill, your whole premise there will collapse if SF ever decide to separate from the IRA.

  • James

    Firstly, I don’t completely buy into a republican split causing all this brouhaha. This could all be smoke and mirrors to legitimize Blair’s and Ahern’s continued dealings with Adams, et. al. until the governments figure out a way to finesse the deal. A round up of those who did the job, a trial and the presentation of evidence in open court followed by convictions is the only thing that will dissuade me from these doubts. However this isn’t about me and , doubts aside, I’ll suspend belief once again and deal with the quote.

    Blair & Ahern don’t deal in terms of right & wrong, moral force, mandates, etc., they deal in power. They use those values in political theater to justify the use of and their continuance in power. Blair’s immediate problem is that he must establish complete sovereignty in Northern Ireland. If Sinn Fein cannot control the splinter group that is contesting that sovereignty, as the statement I quoted implies, then he must either

    Empower Sinn Fein to deal with the dissidents (licence to kill at one extreme, any suggestions at the other?), or

    Talk around Sinn Fein and directly deal with the disaffected parties to solve his problem either through discussion or force of arms..

    I suggest that he considers that any mandate Sinn Fein or Unionism may wish to present at this moment is immaterial to him until he can solve the power problem.

    Then again we could ask him.

    Tony?

  • puddinhead

    People need to realise once and for all- SF and the Ira are the same

  • PaddyCanuck

    “People need to realise once and for all- SF and the Ira are the same”

    No they are not, I never voted for the IRA, I voted for Sinn Fein, they are my represtatives, they have a mandate. To exclude Sinn Fein would be to disenfranchise over 300,000 voters on the island of Ireland.

  • Davros

    How can SF represent a Canadian ?

  • politico

    They’re very closely linked, but they aren’t necessarily the same – surely the breakaway of the Real IRA is evidence that the IRA isn’t wholly united on its current approach?

    I suspect the Sinn Féin leadership were at least aware of the robbery, assuming the IRA were behind it – it makes sense for them to ensure deals wait until after May 5 … and shopping IRA members would risk triggering a serious split within. But then that’s Adams’ dilemma – assuming he really wants to enter the political process in full, he wants to bring the IRA as a whole (or at least the bulk of it) with him – a) because the process won’t last long if the bulk of the IRA’s resources and manpower are at large and active, and b) because he won’t want to be outflanked in his turn as the SDLP have been. At the same time, Unionists are to have any confidence criminality will have to stop … and whether he can deliver the end of criminality is a very open question.

  • politico

    I don’t think a deal is going to be workable with any of the big four outside the Agreement – I’d have thought the past seven years had made that pretty clear.

  • PaddyCanuck

    I can still vote! It’s the law you know….

    I am only a few years Canadian.

  • Davros

    SF was bad enough, but by becoming Canadian you have made yourself an outcast! 😉

  • aquifer

    ‘I don’t think a deal is going to be workable with any of the big four outside the Agreement’

    There were ten groupings around when we got the GFA. Any connection?

    This politics without opposition thing I find a bit suspect, meaning there is a big payoff for ‘Ultra’ behaviour when all parties must be accommodated all of the time,with no penalty for unreasonable or plain offensive behaviour. We now have intra sectarian block elections rather than a shared process.

    We should change the voting rules to reward agreed approaches, so that parties who can co-operate in proposing members will end up with proportionally more executive seats. Not full exclusion, just a simulation of the sort of thing that is possible in a stable functioning democracy where the constitution is not perpetually in question.

    The current PRSTV count could do with looking at too. It may just be unsuitable for an electorate with an extreme binary split, as the extremists always get in, with less chance for one side to influence the type of ‘other’ that rules them.

    Thats it then. Change the voting systems, and if the big four boycott we will have to make do with the small fifteen. I’d take that chance.

    And the IRA?

    Ask the minister for justice.

  • puddinhead

    paddy cannuck
    No they are not, I never voted for the IRA, I voted for Sinn Fein, they are my represtatives, they have a mandate. To exclude Sinn Fein would be to disenfranchise over 300,000 voters on the island of Ireland.

    I never mentioned exclusion or disenfranchising anyone.

    Voting for the ira on their own was impossible as they did not stand alone.

    They had no need to as they are represented by SF/IRA

    Finally Sinn Fein and the IRA are one and the same.
    Best regards Puddinhead

  • aquifer

    Politico

    ‘I don’t think a deal is going to be workable with any of the big four outside the Agreement – I’d have thought the past seven years had made that pretty clear.’

    Sure, but do each of the party hierarchies have to determine who is in every seat in the executive. D’Hondt tries to be fully proportional, but at the cost of preventing ALL of the assembly members influencing the composition of the whole executive. e.g. Sinn Fein members might rather have comical Sammy Wilson rather than crooning Willie McCrea in the Executive, and many across the board may think that Alex Maskey should go on to greater things after his stint as Belfast mayor.

    The current system apparently leaves the appointment of executive members in the gift of the IRA army council, overriding the mandate of legitimately elected SF members.

    If the governments want to talk penalties, give the IRA the red card, not the elected members.

  • New Yorker

    If SF leaders had knowledge of the heist, which seems very likely, then they are members of a conspiracy. And, should be tried as well as those who actually did the dastardly deed. The long view would be that the present SF leaders, if locked up, are already history.

  • James

    “dastardly deed”

    Are you the scriptwriter for Boris and Natasha?

    Ferchristsakes get a grip. If it had been done in the states we’d all be speculating over who would star in the TV movie and how this was a sea change beyond the Brinks job.

    Dastardly deed? Jaysus.

  • Alan2

    “SF ever decide to separate from the IRA.”

    Your having a laugh. Sinn Fein is the same to the IRA as the PUP and UPRG are to the UVF and UDA and they all have convicted terrorists amongst their ranks.

    That is not to say that they do not have a mandate or that they do not have rights or should not have a say. However political parties with private armies / links to terrorism and links to organised crime are an affront to democracy and as such we really should evaluate wether such parties be allowed in government whilst linked to such organisation and / or before such organisations disband / decommisiion or “transform” in a transparent manner that builds confidence within the community that the said organisations actually HAVE done what they say and MEAN what they say rather than it being “tactical”.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Tony Blair 1 Feb 2005

    “The obstacle now to a lasting and durable settlement in Northern Ireland is the continuing paramilitary activity and criminal activity of the IRA.”

    Tony Blair 8 December 2004

    “And so we called it on the basis that we would have photographs but they would not be published until people actually went into the powersharing Executive. It is not possible to get agreement at this stage on that, that is the outstanding issue. As far as we are concerned everything else is agreed.”

    Next week:

    “Tony Blair announces that the only obstable to achieving a lasting settlement is a film of Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams Irish dancing up the Garvaghy Road.”

    History is repeating, now in monthly cycles…

  • James

    “………..a film of Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams Irish dancing up the Garvaghy Road.”

    I got just the fella for ya.

    So lets have your people talk with my people and we’ll do lunch at Formosa.

    Ciao, Baby

  • politico

    Aquifer

    I’m not really talking about the formation of an Executive – I think there’s definitely something to be said for giving MLAs more of a say in who serves as a minister. How far that can go is open to question, but you might at least have a vote ratifying individual ministers even if the allocations between parties remain fixed. (Going further, maybe a voluntary coalition arrangement with a requirement for a 2/3 majority, at least one party from each side of the divide or both?)

    What I meant, and I would hold to this, was that the DUP, UUP, SDLP and SF (obviously this just got a whole lot more difficult today) will all have to be signed up to the Agreement on the framework for the peace process. We tried an Agreement without the DUP in 1998, but that left a serious and viable alternative to outflank the UUP and overtake them when the going got tough. If you try and conclude an Agreement without SF – and there probably are plenty of good reasons by now – you’re excluding the party representing the majority of nationalist voters, and furthermore you leave the IRA with its full arsenal. Similar problems apply to the DUP, minus paramilitaries.

    Finally, you mention STV. I’d have thought that a preferential system would make sense for NI in that it encourages people to think about second choices – thus, in theory, encouraging more cross-community voting. AV might have advantages in that sense, since it has the preferential element but by virtue of being single-member could force some cross-community voting. Possibly some kind of Jenkins-style system might be considered (AV with a limited proportional top-up)?