Mandelson backs Trimble's call for IRA arms pledge

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Peter Mandelson used his first appearance in the Commons as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to back David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader, in his demand for a clearer commitment by the republicans to abandon the bullet for the ballot box.

Peter Mandelson used his first appearance in the Commons as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to back David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader, in his demand for a clearer commitment by the republicans to abandon the bullet for the ballot box.

Mr Mandelson's support for the Unionists' key demand will put pressure on Sinn Fein leaders to make a further move tomorrow when the Ulster peace talks enter the "end game" in Belfast. He said: "The nationalists and the republicans are rightly looking to the early implementation of the power sharing executive. The Unionists are looking for unequivocal evidence that the violence has ended for good. Each is entitled to what they want.

"They need each other to make this possible. Both aims need to be fulfilled. There has to be give and take."

Tony Blair said yesterday he believed there was a "big battle" inside the republican movement between IRA leaders who want to return to violence and the Sinn Fein leaders, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, who support the peace process.

"If you ask me, do I believe Adams and McGuinness are sincere about wanting progress in Northern Ireland, the answer is yes, in the same way I think David Trimble is," said Mr Blair. The US former senator George Mitchell failed to reach a breakthrough in the talks at the US embassy in London last night, and all sides said the talks were now facing a crunch point. He is expected to continue the search for a breakthrough over the weekend in Belfast, but is unlikely to allow talks to drag on much longer.

Sinn Fein is believed to have offered the same language it used in July, suggesting it can use its influence to secure eventual decommissioning of IRA weapons, but Mr Trimble, the first minister in the new Northern Ireland Assembly, made clear that was not enough to allow him to appoint a power-sharing executive with the republicans.

Mr Trimble told Mr Mandelson the Unionists were looking for "clear evidence of irreversible commitment to peaceful means" by paramilitaries. "We are not interested in a fudge," he said. "We are interested in what will work."

Mr Mandelson has also laid to rest Unionist concern that he once supported a united Ireland, although yesterday he referred to his post as "Secretary of State for Ireland", before quickly correcting himself.

Comments