Mowlam agonises over IRA ruling

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The Independent Online
MO MOWLAM, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, is on the brink of a decision that could crucially affect the peace process: a judgement on whether the IRA has been involved in recent killings and other violence.

If she declares that there is firm evidence of IRA responsibility then Northern Ireland politics would be plunged into crisis, since there would be huge pressure for the expulsion of Sinn Fein from the peace process. While the process has received less buffeting during the marching season than had been expected, the formal laying of blame at the door of the IRA would have a destabilising effect on the chances of forming a new cross-community government. Ms Mowlam insisted yesterday that she would not be rushed into a decision. She recently received detailed briefings on the state of the ceasefire from the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the General Officer Commanding of the Army, Sir Hew Pike, and other security advisers. Today she is to meet a Sinn Fein delegation led by Martin McGuinness MP.

Speaking to reporters before the security meeting, Ms Mowlam firmly resisted pressure to blame the IRA. She said: "If I have to act, I won't shirk that duty. People say that the dogs in the street know what is going on. Well, I am afraid I cannot listen to the dogs in the street.

"I have to listen to my advisers, read the evidence and make an evaluation in the round. I won't shirk from that but I won't be pushed in interviews to reach conclusions without full consultations."

There was initial speculation that the IRA was involved in the killing of a Northern Ireland businessman, Richard McFerran, who was yesterday shot in the town of Newry. By yesterday evening, however, police were rejecting a link.

Leading article, Review, page 3