The military and political leadership of republicanism, on the other hand, are one and the same. It is widely accepted that at least four of the IRA's Army Council are also senior Sinn Fein politicians.
It is argued that, because nationalist areas are being attacked by loyalist thugs, the IRA should be allowed to keep its weapons. Since when did the IRA use its considerable arsenal to defend Catholic communities?
The IRA's aim is to destabilise the province of Northern Ireland and the only role it has ever played in nationalist communities is one of intimidation and coercion. If we are to believe that the leadership of Sinn Fein/IRA are now willing to sit in a democratic, devolved government for Northern Ireland, then these tactics are moribund and so are their weapons.
I would agree, however, that a significant section of Unionism is reluctant to sit in government with Sinn Fein, under any circumstances. This is as serious an obstacle to peace as paramilitary arms.
If David Trimble wants the SDLP to commit to expelling Sinn Fein from the executive if the IRA fails to disarm, then he must reciprocate by committing the UUP to expelling anyone who tries to stop democratic republicans from sitting in government.
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