the British government gears up for war in Iraq, it
is attempting to maintain stability in the north of
Ireland. It is hoping for a return to devolved Stormont
rule by the end of February, ahead of elections to
the Northern Ireland Assembly scheduled for 1 May.
On 23 and 24 January the British government held an
'Ulster Summit' in London attended by the Irish government,
the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and former
First Minister David Trimble and Sinn Fein's Gerry
David Trimble had called for the issue of IRA disbandment
to be on the agenda as part of discussions about the
re-establishment of the Stormont parliament. The British
government backed the Unionist call for the IRA to
disband. Speaking at the end of 2002 in Belfast, Tony
Blair stated that Britain would respond 'generously'
to what he called 'acts of completion' by the IRA.
'Acts of completion' is Labour Party language for
what will amount to the disbandment of the IRA. At
the end of the Ulster Summit, Adams felt able to predict
an 'imaginative gesture' by the IRA in response to
the implementation of the devolved institutions.
round of talks to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly
- suspended on 14 October 2002 - broke down on 19
December following the leakage of a confidential Irish
government position paper which stated that the IRA
was still active. In late December, media in Britain
and Ireland quoted a senior Irish government source
saying that the IRA was planning to make a 'historic
gesture' to resuscitate the peace process, although
this was said to fall short of full IRA disbandment.
Yet, when in its New Year message the IRA restated
its total commitment to the peace process and once
more called on British imperialism to implement the
Good Friday Agreement, it rejected what it called
'unrealistic ultimatums' in regard to calls for its
disbandment. The reality, however, is that the Ulster
Unionist Party and the British government have manoeuvred
the IRA into a position where nothing short of a significant
statement from the IRA on disbandment will restore
the devolved institutions. The Republican movement
is once again being compelled to save the peace process.
a measure of how far Sinn Fein is dependent on the
success of the peace process, Martin McGuinness suggested
that the period of January and February was probably
'the most critical six to eight weeks that we have
seen in the course of the last 30 years'. Sinn Fein
Assembly member Martin Ferris went further and described
the negotiations to restore the devolved institutions
as the most important since Britain imposed the partition
of Ireland in 1921.
the negotiations drag on, organised fascist loyalist
attacks on the nationalist working class continue.
In North Belfast in January as part of their continuing
terror campaign against Catholic schools across the
north, loyalists placed a bomb at the Holy Cross primary
school. A loyalist feud has claimed two lives over
the New Year period and threatens loyalist involvement
in the peace process. In a bid to stabilise the escalating
violence within the loyalist community, new Northern
Ireland Minister Paul Murphy revoked the licence of
freedom granted to leading Belfast loyalist Johnny
Adair for being 'a threat to others'. The UDA terror
group of which he was a member has expelled him and
has now threatened to assassinate him. But neither
a loyalist feud nor a return to Stormont rule will
make a difference to the sustained daily attacks the
nationalist community suffers at the hands of loyalist
hate mobs and death squads.
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