Paisley lays claim to moral high ground

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The Independent Online
Among Ulster politicians Dr Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionists, said: "I regret that the British government did not realise that terrorists are terrorists, and until they bring forth fruits for repentance they cannot be trusted.

"Unfortunately the British government trusted them and those of us who said, `Be cautious, take care, watch, be wary, don't lower your guard' were labelled as anti-peace men. But we are the people who are for peace, peace based on righteousness.

"Terrorist arms, whether held by so-called loyalists or the IRA, must be removed. There can be no place in any part of this island or any part of the United Kingdom where arms can be held by factions of people outside the legal government. They did not face up to decommissioning."

Within minutes of the explosion, Irish government ministers began consultations with senior officials. The Irish Prime Minister John Bruton returned to his desk at Dublin's government buildings to talk to civil servants centrally involved in talks that have gone since the 1994 start of the ceasefire.

Other ministers met Mr Bruton later, among them deputy premier and Foreign Minister Dick Spring, who was on his way back from Washington after briefing President Bill Clinton on the present state of the Northern Ireland peace process.

Irish officials were understood to have made almost immediate contact with senior Sinn Fein figures.

Dr Joe Hendron, the SDLP MP for Belfast Westaccused the British government of "playing with fire" over the Mitchell Report on decommissioning terrorist weapons but said the people of Northern Ireland would be "numbed" by the bomb attack.

He accused Mr Major of ditching the Mitchell Report in the sense that the main recommendation was on decommissioning. "The Prime Minister was immediately calling for elections," he said. "They have rowed back a little bit from that.

"But the situation is serious. I don't want the British government saying they are Pontius Pilate and that their hands are clean on that."