15 October 2000
The Challenge is for the British government and Unionism
Sinn Fein s North Belfast Assembly representative Gerry Kelly MLA has today said that while he is confident that the IRA will honour its commitments'' ... ``The real question is about the British government s commitment to its Joint letter and statement with the Irish government of May 5th.
Mr Kelly said,
``Questions have been asked by unionists and the British Secretary of State about the IRA's commitment to its statement of May 6th.
``The real question is about the British government's commitment to its Joint letter and statement with the Irish government of May 5th.
``Proof of the IRA s commitment came when it opened its dumps to inspection by two international statesmen despite the British government s failure to deliver on its obligations at that time.
``This was an historic and unprecedented initiative for the IRA.
``It surprised many Republicans and nationalists, especially given the manner in which the British government had binned the positive deChastelain report of February 11th and then collapsed the institutions.
``Those institutions were re-established on the back of initiatives by Republicans. If this process was dependent on British or unionist initiatives it would have died a long time ago.
``The day after the IRA announced its initiative Gerry Adams pointed out that `the tolerance threshold amongst Republicans for messing by the British government and/or the unionist's is very low'.
``While he expressed the view that most Republicans will `give this initiative a fair wind', he warned that he could not exaggerate the internal pressures on the IRA leadership'.
``The courage and magnitude of the IRA's initiative was further underlined when the Confidence Building Measure took place despite the British government failing to keep its May commitments on Policing and Demilitarisation.
``Clearly, the IRA moved ahead anyway because it wants the peace process to succeed.
``There are those within the unionist `No' camp and within the British system who are trying to create a bogus crisis around the inspections of IRA arms dumps.
``Both governments are also expressing concern about the future of David Trimble s leadership of the UUP. While Sinn Fein also is concerned to do whatever we can to consolidate the pro-Agreement section of unionism this cannot be at the cost of changing the Good Friday Agreement.
``The British government has already made that mistake.
``Nor can Sinn Fein shoe-horn the IRA to take initiatives within deadlines which are being set by those within unionism who are against the Good Friday Agreement and the changes it involves.
``For my part I remain confident that the IRA will honour its commitments. The history of the process shows that it will do so on its own timeframe - not in response to deadlines from others who have failed to keep their commitments.
``Peter Mandelson says he expects the IRA to repeat its CBM now. Mr Mandelson knows the context for the IRA initiative. This is contained in the May 5th Joint letter and statement from the two governments. He also knows that Gerry Adams met with him and the British Prime Minister during the Summer to warn against London dragging out the delivery of its commitments until now. He and Mr Blair and their advisers will recall that Gerry Adams pointed out the difficulties for everyone if the British failed to deliver their commitments or were slow to do so.
``In my view if the British government had kept its side of the May agreement the CBM would have been repeated by now and the re-engagement with de Chastelain would have proceeded. It remains my view that these developments will occur.
``For our part Gerry Adams and I have met the deChastelain Commission a number of times and we intend to continue that dialogue.
``This is a time for calm management of the process. There is no point in the main partners to the Good Friday Agreement reacting to the agenda being set by the OENo unionists. Neither is there any point in trying to blame Republicans for the current state of the process.
``Our conviction that the gun will be taken out of Irish politics is a matter of public record and Sinn Fein continues to work for that objective. I value the silence of the IRA guns. When compared with the loyalist killing spree and remilitarisation by British forces the discipline of the IRA is remarkable.
``Unionists should listen to the IRA when it says that it is no threat to the peace process. The IRA keeps its commitments. That is one of the certainties of this process.
``Efforts to drag the IRA into what is a crisis within unionism and between the British government and the rest of us will only serve to widen the crisis. That would be stupid. Politicians should concentrate on our responsibilities to making the political process work.
``This is especially, at this time and on the policing and flags issues, a challenge for the British government and unionism.
``A failure by them to rise to the challenge would be tantamount to an admission by them that they are not capable of shaping out an agreed future.''
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