Repeating the weary cycle

Irish Government Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern’s speech at UCD was picked up by the BBC yesterday, and the Irish Times today. and, on the internal discussion we’ve been told is underway within “the Provisional movement”, he warned – “An ambiguous outcome offered as a take-it-or-leave-it will merely repeat the weary cycle of Sinn Féin salesmanship followed by unionist rejection and collapse.” – Hmm.. would that be the “snake-oil salesmen”?Some excerpts from the Irish Times report on the speech –

Referring throughout to Sinn Féin and the IRA as “the Provisional movement”, he said they must resolve the issue of paramilitarism in a definitive way. He welcomed Gerry Adams’s instigation of an internal discussion in that movement, but warned: “An ambiguous outcome offered as a take-it-or-leave-it will merely repeat the weary cycle of Sinn Féin salesmanship followed by unionist rejection and collapse.”

He said the Provisional movement must first make a statement describing the outcome of their internal deliberations.

“The method by which that outcome is validated within the Provisional IRA will be critical, for in that method one will be able to assess its seriousness and completeness.”

There will then be a verifiable record of what action is taken on foot of that. “Will all weapons and the capacity to use them in a campaign be fully decommissioned, and will this be duly verified by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning?

“Will paramilitary activities as defined by paragraph 13 of the Joint Declaration cease for good?

“Will the Independent Monitoring Commission progressively report that that is the case over a sustained period of time?”

They must then be clear about the future relationship between the Provisional movement and the PSNI. He asked would they make clear their “complete regard for the rule of law in both jurisdictions?”

He also warned that the adoption, by Sinn Féin, of any other strategy would be a grave mistake –

He said there seemed to be some within republicanism who wondered whether a deal with unionism was either possible or desirable, and who may think that the real deal can only be done directly with the British government. “Some recent statements from Sinn Féin would seem to indicate such a perspective.

“I believe that any such narrow strategy is gravely mistaken. The true objective of Irish republicanism has to be a local political relationship with unionism, based on mutual respect and on the principles set out in the Good Friday agreement.”

He clearly set out the sequence for any progress – the result of that internal discussion would have to be made public first.

Turning to unionism, he said that if the Provisional movement provided what was required, “the political leadership of unionism – now held by the DUP – must reciprocate in a meaningful and substantive way. The Irish Government will expect the DUP to commit itself to inclusive power-sharing within the Assembly and the Executive and to fully work the North/South institutions of the agreement.”

But, interestingly, he also appeared to hold out the prospect of a renegotiation of the “comprehensive agreement” of December..

“Several of the parties may in the coming months wish to revisit aspects of these proposals. We will listen carefully to their views.”