Letter: Mistrust in Ulster

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Sir: Most people who have followed the Belfast negotiations will have wholeheartedly wished them to be successful. At first one is inclined to blame Unionist intransigence for the failure to meet the June deadline. But what are the facts?

Sinn Fein maintains, as always, that it cannot speak for the IRA. The IRA is not a party to the agreement, and has never offered to give up a single weapon. If the IRA supports the Sinn Fein proposal for disarmament by May 2000, there is nothing to prevent it saying so. It has not done so. If the IRA wished to apply the smallest drop of oil to lubricate the negotiations it could have announced a token surrender of a few weapons. It has not done so.

Total IRA disarmament cannot be secured. Only the IRA knows what armaments it possesses. It must know that whatever might be agreed there is no way General de Chastelain can find all its weapons. Once Sinn Fein representatives were in office, it would be very difficult to suspend them on the grounds of delay in disarmament.

In short, it is the IRA that has been intransigent about the surrender of its weapons. How can the Unionists be expected to accept Sinn Fein's proposals as genuine and reliable?

PETER REYNOLDS

Southport, Merseyside

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