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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Northern Ireland: How the trust was lost
Why have the parties lost trust in each other in the Northern Ireland peace process?

Decommissioning and disbandment
Unionists have increasingly believed that republicans are breaking the spirit of the deal by not matching their entry into democratic politics with the end of the IRA.

In the past year, there have been two groundbreaking acts of decommissioning by the IRA.

In return, the British government has scaled down the security presence. However unionists complain decommissioning is vague in nature and without a timetable.

Unionist critics say they don't know if republicans are pursuing a "dual strategy" of taking part in constitutional politics while retaining the capacity to return to violence. They want to hear that "the war is over" and see the IRA consigned to history.

Street violence
Unionists say republicans have serious questions to answer over their role in continuing street violence.

Police officers say the IRA has been involved in clashes with both their own officers and loyalist mobs over the past year as well as other acts of terrorism. The most recent incident blamed on the IRA was the shooting of Londonderry man Danny McBrearty in September.

In contrast, Sinn Fein insists senior republicans have consistently worked to stop the violence getting out of control.

The Colombia Question
In August 2001, the Colombian authorities arrested three suspected IRA men, accusing them of working with the FARC rebels. Their trial is expected soon. The IRA has denied any wrongdoing.

But security forces believe senior republicans knew the men were there. Unionist leaders generally regard the Colombia affair as a clear breach of the IRA's ceasefire.

The Castlereagh break-in
In March 2002 there was a break-in at the Castlereagh police station in Belfast, one of the secure police stations in the world. Nobody to date has been convicted of the break-in.

Some initially suspected it was an "inside job", conducted by rogue members of the security services.

But senior police officers said the inquiry was leading detectives more towards IRA involvement. The event significantly raised tension between unionists and republicans.

'Spying' at the Northern Ireland Office
The latest and most damaging event has been the allegation that republicans have been running a spying operation in the Northern Ireland Office.

Weeks earlier, David Trimble committed his party to pulling out of power-sharing in January 2003 if republicans did not commit themselves to exclusively peaceful means.

The spying allegations prompted Mr Trimble to bring forward his threat to walk-out in the coming days.

"Rejectionist" unionism
Sinn Fein says the pressure on republicans has largely been driven by the splits in unionism. Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble's own party is divided over power-sharing. Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists made significant gains at the 2001 general election.

These two factors, say republicans, has forced a weak David Trimble to pile pressure on them to save his own skin. They complain that republicans cannot build trust in unionists because of constant attempts to "disenfranchise" its voters.

Spying and policing
Republicans vehemently deny the allegations and say that it smacks of anti-republican dirty tricks by anti-agreement elements of the security services, dubbed "securocrats".

This, they say, is the evidence as to why they still cannot support the police reforms which were one of the major planks of the Good Friday Agreement.

In the past few days, Sinn Fein activists have displayed posters claiming the new Police Service of Northern Ireland is no different to the old Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Loyalist violence
Since the Good Friday Agreement, the majority of street violence has come from loyalists groups. Two paramilitary groups, the Ulster Defence Association and the Loyalist Volunteer Force have already been judged to be no longer observing a ceasefire.

Nationalist homes have been targeted in the violence, predominantly in north Belfast, though there is also continuing inter-loyalist violence.

Republicans ask why is there such a focus on the IRA and little effort to deal with loyalists. Unionists say the answer is simple: Only republicans have two ministers in the executive.

Decommissioning and disbandment
This leads into the vexed question of IRA arms. Gerry Adams this week said that the disbandment of the IRA would be a "laudable and necessary objective" of the peace process.

But republicans expect "all the guns" to be taken out of Northern Ireland's politics - including those belonging to the security forces. While loyalist attacks continue against nationalist communities, republicans will not expect the IRA to disband.

"Second class citizens"
Many Nationalists in Northern Ireland, be they supporters of the SDLP or Sinn Fein, have a historical sense of being denied the same rights as unionists.

Despite decades of reform and the gains of the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Fein is raising the spectre of nationalists being again treated as "second class citizens". Unionists rubbish this, saying Gerry Adams is in "denial" over republicans' own failings to meet their obligations to move away from violence.

Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis





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