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Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 22:59 GMT 23:59 UK
IRA arms setback for peace process
IRA has withdrawn decommissioning scheme proposal
IRA has withdrawn decommissioning scheme proposal
The UK Government has accused the IRA of playing into the hands of sceptics of the peace process by withdrawing an 'historic' offer to put weapons beyond use.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid was speaking after the IRA issued a statement on Tuesday blaming the Ulster Unionist Party and the government for its decision.

Republicans had been angered by the brief suspension of Northern Ireland's power-sharing institutions at the weekend, which they saw as caving in to unionist pressure.


We are withdrawing our proposals... peacekeeping is a collective effort

IRA statement
Although the institutions were restored 24 hours later, the withdrawal of the IRA's offer is a major setback for the peace process.

The IRA said the circumstances were no longer right to move their proposals forward but that they would "continue to monitor developments."

Sinn Fein has said the IRA's decision to withdraw its proposal was a "direct consequence of political failure".

Dr Reid said he was "very disappointed" by the IRA statement.

"I think we had made an historic, or at least a significant move on decommissioning last week.

"It has taken so long to get there with such effort and proclaimed to have been of such a significant nature by republicans themselves, that to have broken that agreement and walked away from it within a week will not be easily understood at home or abroad."

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid
John Reid: "The world will not understand this turn-around"

The Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, said he was "disappointed by the IRA statement".

He said the governments would continue their efforts to secure the full implementation of the Agreement.

The arrest of three 'IRA suspects' in Colombia accused of handling drugs and explosives has also added to the sense of crisis in the peace process.

IRA statement

On 8 August, the IRA agreed a scheme with the international decommissioning commission for putting arms beyond use.

Ken Maginnis Ulster Unionist security spokesman
Ken Maginnis: "Another IRA excuse"
However, the republican organisation's latest statement says "the Ulster Unionist Party leadership's outright rejection" of a report by the head of the commission, Canadian General John de Chastelain was "totally unacceptable".

The general had confirmed that a method of putting arms beyond use had been agreed by the IRA.

But his analysis that the IRA had entered into a decommissioning process was rejected by the Ulster Unionist Party and DUP because no timescale was agreed.

It is unclear what the IRA now intends in terms of its contact with the decommissioning body.

The statement did not say whether its representative to the commission would continue discussions with General de Chastelain. It said only that the IRA would "monitor developments".

'Positive move needed'

Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin said Ulster Unionist rejection of the arms body's report, and the brief suspension of the assembly had precipitated the IRA move.

Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble's resignation as first minister last month because the IRA had not decommissioned, and his refusal to accept the arms body's remit under the Agreement, had made the current problems in the process inevitable, he said.

Mitchel McLaughlin Sinn Fein assembly member
Mitchel McLaughlin: "IRA responded to political failure"
However, he said republicans had not disengaged with the peace process.

He called on the government to give republicans some positive political developments to respond to, rather than the negative signal sent by the one-day suspension.

"It is logical that the IRA will respond to political failure," he said.

However, Ulster Unionist security spokesman Lord Maginnis of Drumglass said the IRA statement was "another stuttering excuse for not fulfilling their commitments".

SDLP leader John Hume said the IRA must withdraw their "strange and unhelpful statement which "played straight into the hands of the anti-Agreement parties".

Deputy leader of the anti-Agreement DUP Peter Robinson said the government must now withdraw any concessions it had offered in policing and demilitarisation.

John Reid suspended the assembly for 24 hours following the failure of the main pro-Agreement parties to accept in full proposals from the British and Irish Governments aimed at breaking the current political impasse.

The suspension was to give the parties a further six weeks to resolve the outstanding issues in the Agreement including disarmament, policing, demilitarisation and the stability of the institutions.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kevin Connolly
"No-one ever thought it would be easy"
Northern Ireland Secretary, Dr John Reid
"Naturally, I'm disappointed"
Sinn Fein chairman, Mitchel McLaughlin
"Is the executive ready to function today?"

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough

Background

Loyalist ceasefire

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See also:

12 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
NI talks gain six week reprieve
10 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Sinn Fein anger over suspension
11 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Suspension - lesser of two evils?
12 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Adams denies peace 'within grasp'
14 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Irish police identify 'IRA suspect'
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