Britain says IRA must deliver on disarmament promises |

Britain says IRA must deliver on disarmament promises

Associated Press Writer

BELFAST, Northern Ireland – The outlawed Irish Republican Army must deliver soon on its July 28 promises to disarm and cease all threatening activities, Britain’s Northern Ireland minister said Wednesday in his first major speech on the peace process.Peter Hain, who was appointed Northern Ireland secretary in May, said widespread Protestant rioting earlier this month was fueled, in part, by fears about the province’s Good Friday peace accord of 1998.The complex deal proposed a list of goals – including disarmament of the IRA by mid-2000 – that were designed to promote compromise between the British Protestant majority and Irish Catholic minority and end a conflict that has claimed more than 3,600 lives since 1969.The senior moderate Catholic politician, Social Democratic and Labour Party leader Mark Durkan, backed Hain’s call for immediate IRA moves.”We are two months on from the IRA statement and 64 months on from the deadline for completing (weapons) decommissioning in the agreement. The scrapping of IRA weapons is long overdue. It needs to happen now without further delay. The longer the IRA strings this out, the more it damages the Good Friday agreement,” Durkan said.Ian Paisley, whose hard-line Democratic Unionist Party represents most Protestants, accused Britain of repeatedly making concessions to Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party that represents most Catholics, to ensure that the IRA didn’t abandon its 1997 cease-fire.”Time and time again, violence and the threat of violence has reaped dividends for the men of violence. The fear of IRA terror has resulted in the government granting item after item from the republican wish list,” Paisley said.”The fact of the matter is, we never had a real, genuine, honest cease-fire from the IRA,” he said.The British and Irish governments expect the IRA in the next few weeks to confirm it has scrapped its stockpiled weapons, in what would be a breakthrough for the 12-year-old peace process.Hain said some Protestants “are deeply suspicious of the outworking of the (Good Friday) agreement, and part of that is because movement on IRA decommissioning and the ending of paramilitary activity has been so slow.”He said the IRA’s continuing criminal activities – particularly its robbery in December of $50 million from a Belfast bank – “reinforced the suspicion that promises made to them were not for real.””I also want to see the IRA deliver on its promises,” Hain said.He also warned Northern Ireland’s two major outlawed Protestant groups, the Ulster Defense Association and Ulster Volunteer Force, they must embrace peaceful politics or face an increasingly tough security crackdown.Hain said both paramilitary groups should “play the political role that you claim as your motive, or face the rigor of the law – as the Mafia organizations into which you seem to have degenerated are tackled. You will not be allowed to terrorize your own community.”The UVF and UDA declared a joint cease-fire in 1994 after killing more than 900 people, most of them Catholics, in a self-declared war against the IRA’s support base.Like the IRA, the groups have refused to disarm fully as the 1998 deal required. Unlike the IRA’s Sinn Fein, the Protestant gunmen’s representatives have no significant backing from Protestant voters.Bereft of political clout, the UDA and UVF have focused on their long-established criminal rackets, including drug-dealing, counterfeiting and smuggling, and fought several deadly internal feuds since 2000.Vail, Colorado

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