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Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 19:06 GMT 20:06 UK


Special Report

Unionists reject IRA ceasefire statement

The IRA has denied involvement in murder of a taxi driver

Unionists in Northern Ireland have rejected an IRA statement that its ceasefire remains intact following the murder of a Belfast taxi driver last week.

In the statement the IRA also denied that its leadership sanctioned plans to smuggle guns into Ireland from the United States.


Ken Maginnis: Nonsence dissidents could have smuggled arms
The Ulster Unionist Party's security spokesman, Ken Maginnis, said the announcement should be treated with contempt and accused the IRA of telling ''damn lies''.

He said: "They were involved and I think that that statement should be treated with the kind of contempt that it deserves.


[ image: Ken Maginnis:
Ken Maginnis: "Damned lies"
"Look at where the guns were going and ask yourself, because it wasn't sanctioned, were these guns going to be sent back or handed over?"

In a statement on Friday the IRA leadership said that its Army Council had not sanctioned any arms importation operation.

The statement added: "There has also been speculation about the recent killing of Charles Bennett. Let us emphasise that there have been no breaches of the IRA cessation, which remains intact."

Moving the goal posts

But the Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley said the IRA had a case to answer on both the murder and the alleged smuggling plot uncovered by the FBI in Florida.

The Search for Peace
He said: "It is not an unconditional ceasefire. If they want to exempt you from the ceasefire and murder you then they can do it.

''They are moving the goalposts."

The North Antrim MP also called on both the British and Irish governments to explain the exact definition of ceasefire.


[ image: Gary McMichael: Situation needs clarification]
Gary McMichael: Situation needs clarification
The IRA statement was also condemned by Gary McMichael, leader of the Ulster Democratic Party, which has links to the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association.

He said: ''The Provos are trying to get themselves off some kind of hook here, and some people will believe that they were not involved in any of this activity.

"I think that it has to be clarified.''

'Firing of weapons ends ceasefire'

In the Republic of Ireland, former Taoiseach and leader of the main opposition Fine Gael party, John Bruton, said that unless words have ceased to have any meaning, the firing of weapons ends a ceasefire.


[ image: John Bruton: Political consequences must be faced]
John Bruton: Political consequences must be faced
He said: "People should be honest enough to admit that this was breach of the ceasefire.

''There has to be political accountability for any breach of the ceasefire on the part of the party associated with the paramilitaries that carried it out.''

He added: "It would be interesting to know why the IRA leadership haven't stated that none of their members was involved in, perhaps, an unsanctioned operation,"


Gary McMichael: IRA trying to get off hook
Senior SDLP negotiator, Sean Farren, said his party would not comment on the IRA statement, which he said was a matter for the British and Irish governments.

He said: "We share the widespread outrage and concerns over the recent developments, in particular, the killing of Mr Bennett and the attempted importation of arms.''

'Positive sign'

But David Ervine of the Progressive Unionists, which has close links with the loyalist paramilitary the Ulster Volunteer Force, said the statement was a positive sign.


[ image: David Ervine: Statement is positive sign]
David Ervine: Statement is positive sign
The East Belfast Assemblyman said: "What they are saying is that they didn't breach their ceasefire. What constitutes their ceasefire is another question.

"But by moving to clarify their position they are answering public opinion and that is no bad thing. If they are responding it shows they are conscious of how the atmosphere has been polluted in recent weeks."

The Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams, welcomed the IRA's comments.

He said the statement should end the speculation about the IRA ceasefire.





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Relevant Stories

06 Aug 99 | UK
IRA denies gun smuggling

05 Aug 99 | UK
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05 Aug 99 | UK
When is a ceasefire not a ceasefire?

04 Aug 99 | UK
Recriminations over murder of taxi driver

31 Jul 99 | UK
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30 Jul 99 | UK
Paramilitary link to murder





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