Trimble says Blair government has surrendered to terrorists

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The Independent Online

Northern Ireland's First Minister David Trimble has accused the British Government of surrendering to terrorism and said the IRA has stalled on its commitment to arms decommissioning.

Northern Ireland's First Minister David Trimble has accused the British Government of surrendering to terrorism and said the IRA has stalled on its commitment to arms decommissioning.

He has called for an immediate moritorium on police reform in the province until some progress is made on the issue and has threatened that more concessions to Republicans will topple the fragile peace agreement

The Ulster Unionist leader is under growing pressure from within his own party because of the issue and could face a leadership challenge within weeks by increasingly angry anti-Good Friday Agreement hardliners.

A series of measures announced last Friday, including telling convicted IRA men on the run from jail that they could return and be freed, and the dismantling of more army bases were seen as another government attempt to get the IRA to act.

But in a hard-hitting attack Mr Trimble said Tony Blair and his government had got it wrong.

He said decommissioning was an obligation under the Good Friday Agreement and there had been an agreed deadline for its completion. Mr Blair, he said, had always insisted that decommissioning was an obligation.

But the IRA had stalled following the initial independent inspection of some of its arms dumps months ago.

Mr Trimble said: "I regret to say that the Government is pursuing a seriously flawed strategy for the achievement of our shared objective.

"The point of a disarmament process was that politics in Northern Ireland should be conducted on a level playing field: Sinn Fein's 17% would not be boosted by the power it derives from the barrels of guns.

"However, by making unilateral concessions on the security front, the government is feeding republicanism's insatiable appetite. What was a confidence building measure has become yet another tool for extracting concessions."

Writing in The Daily Telegraph Mr Trimble added: "In short the British Government is doing what successive governments have promised not to do; it is surrendering to terrorism."

He warned that unless the government decided very shortly to stop allowing everything to be turned into a precondition for terrorist disbandment, as it did with prisoner releases, "there will be no Good Friday Agreement".

Spelling out his demand, he said there had to be a moratorium on police reforms until decommissioning had occurred and a complete re-opening of the debate over the renaming of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

If the Agreement goes down there will be increased instability in both parts of Ireland, warned Mr Trimble.

"For this reason it is unfair to ask one section of the community to sustain the lion's share of the pain of implementing the agreement."

It was his second shot across the Government's bows within 24 hours. Speaking yesterday at a Tory Party fringe meeting Mr Trimble said the Government should not assume that his party had "no bottom line" on terrorist disarmament.

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