Why Unionists have little faith in Adams’ Initiative

DUP councillor for Laganbank Christopher Stalford sends us the following article in which he lays out his own response to Gerry Adams’ appeal to the IRA to pursue the politics only route. It appeared in today’s paper version of Daily Ireland.By Christopher Stalford

On the 20th May, the editorial of this paper said “Gerry Adams may not be able to state categorically that the IRA will respond positively to his pre-election call for the IRA to stick to the peaceful and democratic path, but he must feel, as the rest of us do, that there is a very real expectation that the IRA’s response will be positive and progressive”.

Speaking as someone who falls into the category of “the rest of us”, I have no expectations at all of anything approaching the positive or progressive from the Provisional IRA. Leaving aside the fact that Sinn Fein talking to the IRA, is the equivalent of me talking to myself in the bathroom mirror, it is clear to this Unionist that what we are in line for, rather than being the “seismic shift” or “positive and progressive” panacea being hoped for, is more words, more rhetoric and at best more stunts.

The DUP emerged from the recent Westminster and local council elections as the dominant party of Unionism, having built significantly upon our position from the November 2003 Assembly elections. We achieved that electoral success upon the basis of our manifesto.

That manifesto stated “whereas the UUP took the IRA on trust, accepted its word, welcomed its representatives into Government without one gun or bullet being handed over and all the while they continued with their terrorism and crime, the DUP required the IRA to jump first and end all illegal activity”.

When the Provo’s failed to step up to the mark in relation to decommissioning and criminality, the DUP’s judgement was vindicated completely, and in the theatre of civilised world opinion. The international consensus was clear as to who was responsible for the latest stall in the political process.

For the very first time, Sinn Fein/IRA, and not Unionism was being blamed for the failure to reach an agreement. This is because for the very first time, Unionism was being represented at the talks table by a party that would hold fast to its established pre-conditions for Sinn Fein/IRA’s entry into government.

It is this realisation of international criticism (Gerry Adams was reduced to touring the Irish bars in New Jersey at St. Patrick’s Day, rather than being feted at the White House) and possible adverse electoral results that has motivated Mr. Adams “initiative”, nothing less.

Am I the only person who finds it a little bit convenient that the exercise was launched a matter of days before the announcement of a general election? Could it be that it had more to do with the negative publicity facing Sinn Fein/IRA in the wake of the murder of Robert McCartney and the Northern Bank robbery? It is certainly hard to escape that conclusion.

Whatever the outcome of the Adams consultation exercise, Republicans will have to accept that the days of “we’ve jumped you follow” are over. Words are not enough, it’s time for action. There will be no return to the executive at Stormont for Sinn Fein/IRA until the process of decommissioning is completed.

That process must be fully visible, open and verifiable. IRA criminality must be ended completely: this would be assured by a quarantine period in which no criminal activity can or should occur, as a means of testing republican intentions. Violence and crime, regardless of its motivation have no place whatsoever in our society.

If Sinn Fein/IRA is hoping that the DUP will “do a Trimble”, be taken in by mere words and abandon our manifesto pledges they will be very sorely mistaken.

First published in Daily Ireland on Wednesday 8th June 2005