Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, told the British and Irish governments last night that they risked "making a bad situation worse" if they persisted in blaming the republican movement for the deadlock in the Northern Ireland peace process.
His comment followed the IRA's decision this week to withdraw an offer of full arms decommissioning. Last night the IRA accused Tony Blair and the Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, of "making a mess of the peace process" and warned: "Do not underestimate the seriousness of the situation."
Relations between Irish republicans and the two governments have cooled since the £26m Belfast bank robbery in December, which London and Dublin have blamed on the IRA.
Standing outside 10 Downing Street yesterday, Paul Murphy, the Northern Ireland Secretary, discounted the possibility of a breakdown in the peace process, but reiterated the Government's belief that the IRA was involved in the robbery.
This week's IRA statement declared: "We do not intend to remain quiescent within this unacceptable and unstable situation. It has tried our patience to the limit. We are taking all our proposals off the table."
Mr Adams said he had told Mr Blair and Mr Ahern that "confrontation is not the way forward" and warned "the peace process could be as transient as Mr Blair's time in Downing Street".
Further exchanges are expected next week with the publication of a report by the Independent Monitoring Commission, which examines paramilitary activity. It is expected to repeat the robbery charge against the IRA and recommend sanctions against Sinn Fein. The IRA denies involvement.
Northern Ireland's Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, said he did not believe the IRA statement meant a return to wider violence. "We know they have the capacity. We know they have the capability. I am currently of the view that they do not have the intent," he said.
"I do not think the statement changes that. But I also make the point that this is an organisation that still exists, is well organised and has not gone away."Reuse content