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Sunday, April 18, 1999 Published at 19:33 GMT 20:33 UK

UK Politics

Adams: Peace deal could collapse

Gerry Adams: "I think the Good Friday agreement is in freefall"

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has said the Good Friday Agreement could collapse if demands for the IRA to decommission arms continue.

The Search for Peace
His comments come on the eve of a meeting when Northern Ireland's political leaders will discuss the political deadlock, which is preventing the setting up of the new assembly executive.

The meeting will be chaired by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and be held at Downing Street in London.

"I think the Good Friday Agreement is in freefall," Mr Adams said. "The two governments are caught in the preconditional unionist position that the IRA has to do something to help decommissioning before the executive is formed.

[ image: Handover of weapons is holding up the peace process]
Handover of weapons is holding up the peace process
"If that persists then the agreement is dead."

The Ulster Unionist Party insists that it will not sit in the executive with Sinn Fein until there is at least a beginning to the decommissioning of IRA weapons.

Sinn Fein says it simply cannot deliver the handover of weapons being asked. It believes the demand is a new precondition and not in the original agreement.

Mr Adams said that away from the talks "the background is dire". He cited 120 attacks on Catholic homes and the imminent start of the Orange marching season.

'Anger and frustration'

"I think this drift we have seen over the last eight or nine months is now in very dire straits indeed," he said.

He also said there was "anger and frustration" within the republican movement.

But David Trimble, Northern Ireland's First Minister, has appealed to loyalist paramilitaries to break the deadlock over decommissioning.

He said the main problem was their refusal to play their part in last year's Good Friday Agreement by handing over weapons.

David Trimble: "I would particularly appeal to the loyalist paramilitaries to show a lead in this"
Mr Trimble, who is also leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, appealed for loyalist paramilitaries to take the lead, and said if they created "some movement", it would make "the position of the hardliners in the republican movement untenable".

"If they move now, they will have the opportunity of securing a real peace on a satisfactory basis for everyone in Northern Ireland," he told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost programme.

But despite the deadlock, Mr Trimble said the peace process was "a lot more robust than people realise". He said he did not think there would be a return to full-scale violence.

David Trimble: "There is a clear indication that the IRA does not intend to return to violence"
"The speeches of the republican movement at Easter talked of maintaining their political strategy," he said. "This is a clear indication that it doesn't intend to return to violence."

He stressed the importance of sorting out the peace process as soon as possible, and said it would be a "very bad idea" to "let things sit until autumn".

"This handful of people have been so steeped in terrorism over the years, they can't bring themselves to face the fact that it's going to end," he said.

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