Letter: Judging the IRA's peace debate

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The Independent Online
Sir: I take issue with Conor Cruise O'Brien's article 'A land where peace means war' (15 July) insofar as it refers to the security forces and myself. I was disappointed that Mr O'Brien should have taken snippets from a lengthy press conference to attribute to me a position I do not hold.

In recent months I have made it absolutely clear that the Provisional IRA may well want peace - but peace on its terms. However, I remain of the view that there is a genuine debate about peace within republican circles and that those who favour moving in that direction are probably, just probably, in the ascendancy.

Having pressed over the past 12 months for stronger legal measures to take an even more robust stance against all terrorists, I find Mr O'Brien's comments about rot within the security forces fatuous. There is no rot, nor is any likely. The results against the IRA and loyalist terrorists on a daily basis should make that clear to the most ill-informed observer, never mind someone of Mr O'Brien's standing.

But taking a robust and determined stance on terrorism should not preclude anyone from making a balanced observation on the situation. In my case the observation was based on knowledge of the overall intelligence pattern, and I would not have said it if I did not believe it to be true.

While those in charge of politics strive to fill the political vacuum, the RUC, valiantly supported by the Army, will continue to tackle terrorism from wherever it comes. When, and only when, there is a significant reduction in terrorist violence, will the current pattern of policing change. That is not rot setting in. That is common sense.

Yours faithfully,

HUGH ANNESLEY

Chief Constable

Royal Ulster Constabulary

Belfast

15 July

(Photograph omitted)

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