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Sunday, 20 October, 2002, 00:03 GMT 01:03 UK
IRA rejects disbandment calls
IRA mural in Belfast
IRA "concerned about political developments"
The IRA has rejected calls from Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Ulster Unionists for the organisation to disband.

It said in a statement it was "not a threat to the peace process and will not accept the imposition of unrealisable demands".

The latest call for IRA disbandment came from Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble at his party's annual conference in Londonderry, shortly before the statement was issued.

The IRA statement added: "There is considerable concern within the IRA at recent developments and at sustained efforts to present the IRA as a threat to the peace process."

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble
David Trimble: "Beginnings are not enough"

In another development, reports in the Irish press say that jailed members of the Real IRA dissident republican group have issued a statement claiming it will disband.

The statement, issued by men inside the Irish Republic's high-security Portlaoise jail, said the Real IRA was at an end and only a few "corrupt" members of the Real IRA were "fraternising with criminal elements".

But the report is being treated with scepticism as there has been no confirmation of disbandment by Real IRA leaders outside jail.

Northern Ireland's political process remains in crisis following the suspension of the devolved power-sharing government on Monday, amid controversy over allegations of IRA spying within the Northern Ireland Office.

Mr Trimble said of the IRA statement: "I believe that the IRA have said that they are no threat to the process.

"In which case... we must have been dreaming all this for the last few weeks and that nothing has really happened and that everything is going on as normal and that there has not been a collapse in the process - really?"

SDLP leader Mark Durkan
Mark Durkan: "High-handed demands unhelpful"

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the Agreement would not be sustained by either public exchanges or private arrangements between the British Government and the IRA and that a process involving all parties was the only way forward.

The former deputy first minister said: "The case for an absolutely definitive move from the IRA should not be presented or be allowed to be misrepresented as a high-handed British demand, nor is that the only confidence issue which needs to be resolved."

Mr Trimble told his party conference that unionists would not be satisfied with a "phantom" IRA disbandment and that the situation demanded "deeds not words".

"Words like: 'the war is over', will cut no ice," he said.

The former first minister said republicans had moved "but not enough".

Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair called for the end of the IRA
And in a direct message to Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, he said: "It's up to you. Do not expect promises or beginnings to do the trick."

Echoing the comments of Prime Minister Tony Blair, who visited Northern Ireland on Thursday to address the current political crisis, the Ulster Unionist leader said the transition to peace must be completed.

Mr Blair had called for an end to the IRA and said it could no longer be "half in, half out" of the process.

Addressing delegates at the UUP conference, Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith also called for IRA disbandment.

He said the Agreement could only be implemented if set to a strict timetable and he called on the prime minister to consider expelling Sinn Fein from its Westminster offices.

Meanwhile, speaking on the BBC's Inside Politics programme on Saturday, Mr Trimble said he could see no point in the British Government holding round-table negotiations between the parties, as Sinn Fein and the SDLP had suggested.

As the parties continue to criticise each other publicly, talks between the parties in the British and Irish Government officials are expected to take place behind the scenes in an attempt to restore confidence in the political process.

The May date for the assembly election is being seen as a more pressing concern for some of the parties than any reinstatement of devolution.

Mark Simpson reports from Belfast
"A speedy return to devolution in Northern Ireland is now impossible"
The BBC's Helen Simms
"David Trimble was clearly angry and frustrated by the statement"
BBC NI political correspondent Martina Purdy:
"Delegates heard their leader demand deeds, not words from the IRA"

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19 Oct 02 | N Ireland
18 Oct 02 | Politics
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14 Oct 02 | N Ireland
19 Oct 02 | N Ireland
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