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Saturday, April 3, 1999 Published at 20:05 GMT 21:05 UK


Peace process threat

McGuinness: Criticised RUC treatment of death threats

Northern Ireland's peace process faced a new crisis as Sinn Fein appeared to be distancing itself from the new plan to break the deadlock in the Northern Ireland peace process on Saturday.

The Search for Peace
And as a senior official said the party would continue to press for full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, Chief Negotiator Martin McGuiness alleged death threats had been made against him.

The Mid-Ulster MP said he was told about the threats on Friday by RUC officers, who would not tell him whether they were made by hardline republicans or loyalists.

Mr McGuinness said he would seek legal advice on whether it was permissible for the RUC not to divulge the "source or nature" of the death threat against him.

An RUC spokesman would not comment on Mr McGuinness's allegations, apart from saying it was standard policy to tell people about threats made against them.

[ image: Blair and Ahern: New joint declaration]
Blair and Ahern: New joint declaration
The revelation came as Sinn Fein leaders, at a Belfast press conference, said the party had no hand in the joint declaration by the British and Irish governments on the formation of a new power-sharing executive.

After round-the-clock talks, the document, announced by Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, proposed forming a new executive as a way of overcoming the decommissioning obstacle.

The declaration set out a procedure for the nomination of ministers from pro-Good Friday Agreement parties to a body shadowing British Government ministers in the province until the transfer of powers.

But Sinn Fein was warned it would be allowed to take up cabinet posts only if IRA weapons were "put beyond use" within a month of ministerial nominations being made.

'We did not agree to it'

Party negotiator Gerry Kelly said: "The two governments put forward a proposal. We were not involved in negotiating it, nor did we agree to it."

"Let me make that clear: we did not agree to it or negotiate it and unionism, as I am informed, was not involved in it either."

He added there was "frustration and disappointment ... bordering on anger" among republicans at the continuing impasse.

He said the delay was creating a political vacuum which was being exploited by loyalist paramilitaries.

Mr Kelly's comments were made ahead of several key speeches by Sinn Fein leaders on Sunday at 1916 Easter Rising commemorations, which will spell out republican thinking on the peace process.

Decommissioning clash

And in another development unionist parties clashed over whether the joint declaration would result in substantial IRA decommissioning.

On BBC Radio Ulster's Inside politics programme, DUP Assemblyman Nigel Dodds dismissed the declaration as "candyfloss - sugary and sweet but absolutely no substance".

He said: "Whatever the declaration may mean, it doesn't mean an ongoing programme for decommissioning and it doesn't mean the dismantling of the terror machines.''

But Ulster Unionist security spokesman Ken Maginnis insisted decommissioning would take place and questioned anti-Agreement unionists commitment to disarmament.

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