Reynolds defends Ireland's record on fighting terrorists

THE IRISH REPUBLIC does not provide 'a safe haven' from which terrorists could plan and launch attacks, Albert Reynolds, the Irish Prime Minister, said yesterday when mounting a strong defence of the Republic's record on fighting terrorism.

He highlighted the 'huge stockpiles' of IRA arms seized in the South, and the jailing in Ireland and the extradition for trial abroad of many involved in terrorism.

He was speaking in a Dail debate on Northern Ireland, called in the wake of the latest upsurge of IRA bombings and Ulster Defence Association attacks on Catholics north of the border. He expressed sympathy to the relatives of the Warrington bomb victims and the Catholic workers killed in Castlerock, Derry, last week.

Mr Reynolds described as 'shocking' a Belfast newspaper poll result yesterday that found 42 per cent of respondents supported loyalist violence. It showed 'that all, and not just some, Unionist political leaders must be unequivocal in their condemnation' of terrorist violence.

He warned of 'a very clear attempt to intimidate and terrorise' nationalists and their elected leaders in the run-up to the May local elections.

The Taoiseach criticised 'certain attempts to provide political explanations of so-called loyalist violence', that he said could 'all too easily be seen as justifications'.

On the IRA, while affirming 'the strong sense of grievance and injustice' felt by northern nationalists and their treatment 'as aliens in their own country', he said nothing justified the creation of new injustices or methods that drove communities further apart.

Defending the Republic's territorial claim over the North, Mr Reynolds claimed it had close parallels with the long-standing, but less controversial, claim in the West German constitution over the former East Germany.

The Taoiseach said aspirations to Irish unity from nationalists had been echoed in a British belief that partition from 1920 would be temporary. He cited the 1920 Government of Ireland Act plan for a national council 'with a view to . . . a Parliament for the whole of Ireland'. He said the constitution had helped 'take the gun out of politics' in Ireland and was seen as the Irish constitutional guarantee to northern nationalists.

His speech was strongly attacked by opposition parties. Michael McDowell, the Progressive Democrats' foreign affairs spokesman, said its historical review was 'backward-looking, introverted and self-justifying'.

Ulster Unionists accused Mr Reynolds of undermining the talks process and stepping back from the conciliatory tone of Dick Spring, Labour leader and Irish foreign secretary in Dublin's coalition government.

His speech could set back the hopes of Sir Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, for reviving the cross-party talks after the local elections in Ulster. Sir Patrick has been hoping that the precondition for talks set by Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party would be dropped once the local elections are over. Ministers expect the DUP to lose support in the elections to James Molyneaux's Ulster Unionist Party.

However, the speech appeared to make the DUP more determined to insist on articles two and three of the Irish Constitution - laying claim to the North - being dropped before the talks could begin.

Peter Robinson, the DUP MP for Belfast East, said on Radio 4: 'If there are ever to be substantial discussions between Northern Ireland representatives and the Republic of Ireland, there has to be respect and recognition for the position of each of the two territories. The Republic of Ireland are indicating they are happy to have the talks but on their terms. They will not change their illegal claim. The onus is on them . . .'

Magistrates at Arbour Square court in east London, yesterday remanded Jan Alexander Taylor and Patrick Thomas Hayes in custody until 22 April on charges in connection with the Harrods bombing earlier this year.

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