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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 20:48 GMT 21:48 UK
Analysis: Blair's tough talking
Tony Blair
Prime Minister warns remove the threat of violence

Listening to Tony Blair on his latest whirlwind visit to Belfast, it seemed as if he had ditched his long-held policy of 'carrot and stick' on the peace process.

Gone was the diplomatic language, and inserted was the blunt message to Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness - you and your party are not fit for government.

The big stick was waving but the only orange thing in sight was a ginger-haired businessman on the front row of the audience.

The key soundbite was there for all to hear: "We cannot carry on with the IRA half in, half out of this process. It won't work anymore", he warned.

But what was said just after this was too easily forgotten.

Incentive offered

"Should real change occur, we can implement the rest of the Good Friday Agreement, including on normalisation, in its entirety and not in stages, but together," said Mr Blair.

This was the carrot - a bright orange one in fact.

Normalisation is code for soldiers leaving Northern Ireland in their thousands and security installations being dismantled by the dozen, in one swoop.

These are two of the key items on the republicans current shopping-list and no-one believes that the IRA will make a significant shift without something in return.

Critics will say you cannot do a grubby political deal with terrorists.

The government will say that the removal of the IRA from the equation will transform the security situation. No threat from the IRA will mean no need for such a huge miltary presence.

Rather than a concession, the government will argue that it is merely a logical step.

IRA reaction

But not so fast, is the IRA really going to go out of business just because a British Prime Minister came to Belfast one day and demanded it?

That would be very surprising indeed, to say the least.

It took 25 years to persuade the IRA to call a ceasefire and it took another seven years to coerce it into decommissioning any of its weapons.

Is it really now going to disband overnight?

The answer is no. But the IRA is now under pressure to do something significant sooner rather than later.

The history of the peace process shows that the IRA only moves when it suits its own agenda rather than that of others.

Mr Blair may need to be patient, unless of course he knows something we don't.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
IRA response
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See also:

17 Oct 02 | N Ireland
17 Oct 02 | N Ireland
17 Oct 02 | N Ireland
17 Oct 02 | N Ireland
17 Oct 02 | N Ireland
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