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Saturday, 20 October, 2001, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
Sinn Fein 'pressing for arms move'
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has said he is working "flat out" to secure IRA decommissioning amid speculation a move on arms could be imminent.

Mr McGuinness said the process was in a "terrible crisis" as intensive, behind-the-scenes talks continued to try to save devolution from collapse.

The future of the political institutions is uncertain after five unionist ministers resigned from the power-sharing executive on Thursday, because of the absence of IRA decommissioning.

But senior security sources have told the BBC they are not ruling out an IRA move on weapons within days.

"Everything is possible... something could happen early in the week", a source said.

Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness: "David Trimble will have to face down his critics"

Sources believe the IRA could move on the arms issue without the organisation holding a convention - a meeting at which the IRA rules on matters of major importance.

However, no decision has been taken and Sinn Fein is still involved in talks with the British and Irish Governments.

Mr McGuinness said he was hopeful the Good Friday Agreement would be implemented "at long last".

Speaking on the BBC's Inside Politics programme on Saturday, he also called on Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble to "face down" the anti-Agreement wing of his own party.

"We want to see a situation where these people who are within the political leadership of unionism, who tell us that they are in favour of the Good Friday Agreement will, at long last, embrace that Agreement wholeheartedly," he said.

"Essentially that means a difficult choice ahead for David Trimble in relation to making it clear to Ian Paisley and others within the DUP, and of course, the element within his own party, who are led by Burnside and Donaldson, that they are not going to succeed."

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Security Minister Jane Kennedy has said she is still confident a weapons handover will soon take place.

"We have no clear intelligence that anything is going to happen, but we do hope," she said.

"We know that everybody understands what has to be done.

"The situation we are in is not satisfactory, but we are hopeful that we can find a solution to it and there is still time."

There is a clear need for both loyalists and republicans to deliver

David Ford

Earlier, the new leader of the cross-community Alliance Party urged republican and loyalist paramilitaries to respond to the "urgent" need for arms decommissioning.

In his first leader's speech at the party's annual conference on Saturday, David Ford said the issue of weapons remained the biggest obstacle to progress.

"There is a clear need for both loyalists and republicans to deliver," he said.

"This is not because hardline unionists say they must or even because I say so, but because it is part of their obligations under the Agreement and they have promised action on numerous occasions."

On Friday, Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid said trust must be built on all sides to overcome the crisis.

He was speaking after a meeting with Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen.

Launch new window : Fast Facts Primer
Click above to launch a primer on where all the parties stand on the deadlock

Mr Cowen said there needed to be urgent progress in implementing the proposals agreed during the Weston Park negotiations in July, in particular, in putting arms beyond use.

The UK Government must decide within the next five days how to react to the latest crisis in the political process.

The two governments are to stay in contact over weekend.

David Trimble is demanding credible start to IRA arms decommissioning
David Trimble is demanding credible start to IRA arms decommissioning

Under assembly rules, there are a further five days in which the UUP leader could prevent the collapse of the power-sharing arrangement and a return to direct rule by deciding to re-nominate his ministers.

Mr Trimble has said that will depend on the IRA putting its weapons beyond use in a verifiable and meaningful way.

He resigned as Northern Ireland first minister in July to put pressure on the republican movement to get rid of weapons.

If devolution is suspended for an unlimited period, it is likely the government will start a review of the implementation of the Agreement.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's chief security correspondent Brian Rowan
"Security sources are not ruling out an IRA move on arms within days"

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough

Background

Loyalist ceasefire

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See also:

20 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Will IRA move soon on arms?
18 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Q&A: Assembly crisis
13 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Political process in crisis
13 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble urges move on IRA ceasefire
19 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Still time for progress says Reid
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