Conservative Party Conference: Anger grows over IRA arms tactics

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT'S failure to secure the surrender of arms by the IRA is threatening bipartisan support for the Good Friday Agreement, Tony Blair will be told tomorrow by Andrew Mackay, the Conservative spokesman on Northern Ireland.

He will make one of the most Unionist speeches heard at a Tory conference for a decade, say sources. He will push the bipartisan approach to the peace process to the limit by telling Mr Blair the Government is failing to fulfil promises over the arms issue. "He will make it clear that bipartisanship is all very well, but bipartisanship is not a blank cheque," said a Tory source.

"It will be robustly Unionist, and he will remind everyone that this is the Conservative and Unionist Party," said the source.

David Trimble, First Minister of Northern Ireland, told the conference the IRA had to give up weapons before Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, could take a post in the power-sharing executive. "That issue (decommissioning) is still the key issue. It has been fudged over the last year but can be avoided no longer. We have to insist that those who are coming to democracy from terrorism demonstrate that clearly.

"Mr Adams referred to republican terrorism as a `sleeping dog' and advised us not to kick the sleeping dog. We have to tell them that the dog should not be there at all."

Mr Mackay underlined his support for the party's Unionist links yesterday in a debate on constitutional reform. Defending the union with Ulster, he said: "It is because I am a Unionist that I, like David Trimble, support the Belfast Agreement. I believe it strengthens the Union."

Lord Cranborne, Tory leader in the Lords, used the debate to attack government plans in the next session to abolish the right of hereditary peers to vote and speak in the Lords.

The battle over the Lords will dominate Parliament in the next 12 months, and Lord Cranborne fuelled speculation that the Tories will fight the Government tooth and nail unless it produces a consensus on the second stage of reform of the Lords.