Trimble challenges Adams on IRA arms

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The Independent Online
THE arms decommissioning issue moved back to centre-stage yesterday as Northern Ireland parties began positioning themselves for the 25 June elections to a new Belfast assembly.

Pro-agreement parties had the wind in their sails in the wake of Friday's momentous 71 per cent referendum endorsement of the Good Friday agreement, which maps out a new political future for Northern Ireland.

While the Rev Ian Paisley and other anti-agreement elements will undoubtedly stage counter-attacks in the days ahead, the decisive poll result has created a near-universal assumption that nothing can derail the peace process now.

But yesterday brought a descent from Saturday's heady celebrations to the more mundane stuff of day-to-day politics, with the Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, and others pressing the Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams, on de-commissioning.

Mr Trimble declared: "The time has come for Mr Adams to deliver. We start off with a clear statement that squalid, dirty little terrorist war is over, that there's a commitment to peaceful means, that there will be no return to violence, that the paramilitary apparatus will be set to one side.

"And that's an end to all paramilitary activity, and addressing the issue of disbanding, and also addressing the issue of decommissioning it by actually doing it."

That message was put into stark relief by the part explosion of a bomb as it was examined by an army bomb disposal robot under a bridge at the Finaghy railway halt in south-west Belfast.

In the Republic, two men were being questioned by police in Dundalk after they were arrested at Dromad, County Louth on Saturday afternoon taking two cars packed with 1,000 pounds of explosives towards the border.

Mr Trimble also made overtures designed to heal some of the wounds within Unionism, saying that may of those who had voted No were "good people who are concerned and have been misled by the people who have been giving them a false account of this agreement and spreading so many scare stories around". The Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, referred to the decommissioning issue in less challenging fashion, saying he would like to see Sinn Fein members working together with other parties on the executive to be formed in the new assembly.

He went on however to call for a general military de-escalation, adding: "Ordinary people in the community want to see the IRA out of their hair, they want to see the loyalist murder gangs out of their hair, and all that they associate with the war years, the military years, out of their hair."

Mr Adams, in a counter-challenge, made a personal appeal to David Trimble to help avoid confrontations during the loyalist marching season. He said at a news conference: "You talk to me about decommissioning - talk to me about that after July 12th if these parades go ahead. Talk to me about it after the Tour of the North [through Belfast]. Talk to me if the RUC hack their way down the Garvaghy Road."

Mr Adams said republicans would co-operate with a commission on the arms issue, but added that it must not be a pre-condition or obstruction.

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