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February 03, 2005

02/03/05 - IRA Warns Of Serious Situation

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

BB 02/03/05 IRA Warns Of 'Serious Situation'
SM 02/03/05 IRA Accused Of 'Threat' In Second Statement
NY 02/03/05 IRA'S Issues Warning On Withdrawal From Talks


IRA Warns Of 'Serious Situation'

The IRA has warned the British and Irish governments not to underestimate the seriousness of the current state of the peace process.

Irish state broadcaster RTE reported a fresh statement from the organisation on Thursday.

It follows a statement on Wednesday in which the group withdrew its offer to put its weapons beyond use.

The IRA continues to deny claims it was behind the £26.5m Northern Bank raid in Belfast.

Thursday's statement said: "The two governments are trying to play down the importance of our statement because they are making a mess of the peace process.

"Do not underestimate the seriousness of the situation."

It came as the Independent Monitoring Commission presented its report on the robbery to the British and Irish governments.

The report is not expected to be published until next week.

It is thought it will concur with the police assessment that the IRA was to blame for the bank raid last December and to suggest sanctions against Sinn Fein.

Earlier, the Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy said the onus remained on the IRA to end criminality in order to move the political process forward.

Mr Murphy was speaking after meeting the prime minister on Thursday.

He said the issue was not about confrontation, but about ending criminality.

"They (the IRA) have to accept that is what is dealing a great blow at the moment, both to the peace process and the political process in Northern Ireland," he said.


"We told Sinn Fein that they are to go back and reflect upon the points that the governments have made to them - in many ways the ball is in their court - to stop the criminality which is associated with the IRA."

Chief Constable Hugh Orde said he did not believe the first IRA statement signalled a return to violence.

"We know they have the capacity. We know they have the capability. I am currently of the view that they do not have the intent," he said.

"I do not think the statement changes that. But I also make the point that this is an organisation that still exists, is well-organised and has not gone away."

However, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said that blaming the IRA for the Northern Bank raid had "scuttled" the chance of the organisation disarming.

Irish Premier Bertie Ahern said there would be no change of focus whatsoever from either the British or Irish governments.

The two governments still wanted to deal with transparency on decommissioning and an end to criminality and paramilitarism.

At a news conference on Thursday, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said: "Confrontation is not the way forward - otherwise the peace process could be as transient as Mr Blair's time in Downing Street."

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said: "Interestingly,..... Gerry Adams refused to respond to a number questions about whether the IRA ceasefire would remain stable in the future."

Last year, the IRA said it would complete the decommissioning process within weeks and move into what it called a "new mode".

Responding to Thursday's IRA statement, Democratic Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson urged people to remain calm but accused republicans of behaving childishly.

Senior Ulster Unionist negotiator Sir Reg Empey, whose party met Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday, said the latest IRA statement was an attempt to bully the community.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the IRA was in no position to lecture governments or anyone else about making a mess of the peace process.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/02/03 22:12:19 GMT


IRA Accused Of 'Threat' In Second Statement

By Dan McGinn and Kieran McDaid, PA

Northern Ireland’s peace process was plunged further into crisis tonight after the IRA accused British and Irish ministers of making a mess of efforts to restore devolution in a fresh statement.

Just 24 hours after an IRA statement withdrew its last disarmament offer, the organisation warned London and Dublin not to underestimate the seriousness of the current situation.

An IRA source said: “The two governments are trying to play down the importance of our statement because they are making a mess of the peace process. Do not underestimate the seriousness of the situation.”

While republicans would not elaborate further on the IRA’s words, they were bound to cause concern in Belfast, London and Dublin, resurrecting the spectre of a return to violence.

Democratic Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson urged people to remain calm but accused the IRA of behaving childishly.

“None of this changes the fact that there must be an end to all criminal and paramilitary activity by the IRA,” the Lagan Valley MP said.

Police claims that the IRA carried out the £26.5 million Northern Bank robbery in Belfast in December have effectively shattered any hopes that a deal to restore power-sharing can be restored in Northern Ireland.

The IRA has consistently denied the claims by Chief Constable Hugh Orde and Government ministers in London and Dublin who said it was responsible for the record bank heist.

And in a statement last night the organisation warned that it would resist any attempt to tar it with allegations of criminality.

The IRA hit out at the “unacceptable and unstable situation” that arose after the Northern Bank robbery.

It also warned: “It has tried our patience to the limit.”

The IRA statement, however, was dismissed by political opponents on both sides of the Irish border.

Democratic Unionist Assembly member Ian Paisley jnr portrayed it as a temper tantrum akin to a baby throwing its toys out of a pram.

Irish Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte also accused the Provisionals of belligerence.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern played down concerns about the statement while British Government sources also insisted that continued paramilitary and criminal activity by the IRA remained an obstacle to political progress.

Finance Minister Brian Cowen said tonight the Dublin government was fully aware of the seriousness of the current state of the peace process in the wake of the second IRA statement.

“The seriousness of the situation is that we’re engaged in a process whereby a transition is supposed to be taking place whereby militant republicanism and other paramilitaries clear the pitch to enable democratic and peaceful political progress in this island,” he said.

“I think they need to recognise, all of them, that the prospects for peaceful reconciliation and for a full implementation of this agreement, which is the basis upon which they’ve decided to clear the pitch, has now been reached and they should so do.”

Mr Cowen said he did not know what the suggestion in the latest statement that the seriousness of the situation was being underestimated meant.

“The signatories to these statements aren’t amenable to any sort of democratic accountability so I don’t make comments particularly on what Provisional IRA statements have to say,” he said.

“What I’m saying is, as a minister of the government, is on behalf of the people, the essence of republicanism is to agree with the will of the people.

“The will of the people has spoken, there is no role for paramilitarism in a modern Ireland and a peaceful Ireland.”

a Kenny, the leader of the main Irish Opposition party Fine Gael, described the latest IRA statement as tantamount to a threat against the Irish people and state.

“Such threats have no place in any process of negotiations,” he said.

“The democratic political parties must stand firm in the face of this attempted intimidation.”

Mr Pat Rabbitte called the statement a sinister development and said it contained an implied threat to democratically elected governments and to the people of these islands.

“The comment I made in the Dail this morning, that democrats should stand firm in the face of IRA belligerence, is all the more relevant in the light of this latest statement,” he added.


I.R.A.'S Issues Warning On Withdrawal From Talks


Published: February 3, 2005

ONDON, Feb. 3 - Despite a fresh warning today from the Irish Republican Army not to "understimate the seriousness" of its actions, the I.R.A's decision to withdraw from peace negotiations in Northern Ireland is unlikely to lead to a resumption in violence, government and law-enforcement officials said.


"We are clear that the I.R.A. has the capacity; it has the capability," said Hugh Orde, Northern Ireland's chief constable. "But I don't think they have the intent to go back to war or armed struggle. We continue to monitor that daily."

Few would question Mr. Orde's conclusion, and there was nothing in the I.R.A's angry statement, printed Wednesday night, that would indicate a return to violence.

Yet there is little doubt that the I.R.A's announcement - that it was withdrawing its offer to decommission its weapons, a linchpin in the Northern Ireland power-sharing agreement - throws the ongoing peace negotiations into even deeper turmoil. The withdrawal from the negotiating table serves to underscore how positions have shifted and hardened on all sides, both Protestant and Catholic, ever since the I.R.A. was accused by the police of the $ 50 million bank robbery in Northern Ireland last December.

The I.R.A. has denied any involvement in the robbery, a position that has been repeated often and loudly by Sinn Fein, the I.R.A's political wing and the largest Catholic party in Northern Ireland. The I.R.A. has also said it does not tolerate criminality.

Late today, in a statement delivered to Irish national radio RTE, the I.R.A. said the two governments were "trying to play down the importance of our statement because they are making a mess of the peace process. Do not underestimate the seriousness of the situation."

Without offering any public evidence or making any arrests, Mr. Orde has said the I.R.A. is responsible for the heist, a conclusion forcefully backed by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and Prime Minister Bertie Ahern of Ireland. In fact, the I.R.A statement came only one day after Mr. Ahern and Mr. Blair met with Mr. Orde and then appeared side by side to denounce the group's criminal actions once again.

"They shoot people in cold blood without any trial, without any form of judicial process," Mr. Blair said, referring to the I.R.A's punishments.

Taken altogether, it is a clear indication that negotiations have collapsed.

"In the past sometimes there have been hiccups, but this is more genuine a crisis, said Professor Richard English, who teaches politics at Queen's University in Belfast and wrote the "Armed Struggle: The History of the I.R.A." "The bank robbery is a big deal. There is no chance of a political deal this year. There is no trust now."

Both the Irish and British governments today condemned the I.R.A's decision to back out, saying it was absurd for the group to claim it is not engaged in criminal acts when evidence points otherwise. Sinn Fein leaders point out that the evidence has led to few arrests and even fewer convictions.

Mr. Ahern and Mr. Blair now insist that the I.R.A. must abandon all criminality in order for Sinn Fein to move forward with the power-sharing agreement between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

Paul Murphy, the Northern Ireland secretary, said after a meeting with Mr. Blair and the Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble that Northern Ireland does not have a place "for a political party to be linked to an organization which carries out a £26.5 million robbery."

"We are not confrontational, but we really do want people to understand that the obstacle at the moment is criminality," Mr. Murphy added.

Prime Minister Ahern, seeking to tamp down the crisis, said he did not to read the I.R.A. statement in a "negative fashion."

"They are saying what is a fact - that negotiations have broken down," he added. "Everything is off the table and that's the normal course of negotiation."

Speaking more forcefully, Ireland's deputy prime minister, Mary Harney, said that Sinn Fein and the I.R.A. are "not going to blackmail the British and Irish governments."

In the wake of the bank robbery, Protestant Unionists have gained considerable leverage at the negotiating table and are taking every opportunity to question wither Sinn Fein and the I.R.A. can ever be trusted again.

"The unionists have always said we can't go into government trusting these people," Mr. English said. "Now they can say, 'We told you so.' "

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Table of Contents – Feb 2005
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