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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
IRA 'ultimatum' angers republicans
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Mr Blair has thrown down the gauntlet
The Sinn Fein president has said republicans are angry over Tony Blair's call for an end to the IRA.

Gerry Adams was speaking against the backdrop of the prime minister's keynote speech on the peace process in Belfast on Thursday.

In his speech, Mr Blair warned that it was not possible to carry on "with the IRA half in, half out".

Northern Ireland's power-sharing executive was suspended for the fourth time at midnight on Monday following allegations of IRA intelligence gathering in the Northern Ireland Office.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams warned against setting deadlines
Speaking in Belfast on Friday, Mr Adams said Mr Blair was taking the wrong approach and "this is not a time for deadlines - that has never worked in the past".

"What we need to do is to understand that the removal of the political anchor of the process was a grievous mistake."

He also said that republican anger is "probably motivated by, not so much what Mr Blair has said, but by the fact that it happened a day or two after the British Government suspended the institutions".

The Sinn Fein president also said he wanted an end to the suspension of Northern Ireland's power-sharing institutions and a start to all party talks as soon as possible.

In his speech, Mr Blair said the continuing existence of the IRA "totally justifies" rejectionist unionists' refusal to share power with republicans.

"We cannot carry on with the IRA half in, half out of this process. Not just because it isn't right any more. It won't work anymore," he said.

"There is no parallel track left. The fork in the road has finally come."

Mr Adams said his party would remain committed to the peace process.

"We're going to stick with it, we're not going to walk away from it," he said.

Mr Blair's comments were criticised by SDLP leader Mark Durkan, who accused the prime minister of lecturing to Northern Ireland's politicians.

"The prime minister seems to think that all that is needed is a political pulpit where he preaches sermons at us and politics is suspended," he said.

On Thursday, the Irish Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern said all paramilitary groups needed to be disbanded.

Bertie Ahern: Irish Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern: Wants to see an end to "all armed groups"

"We want to see the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and we equally believe the best way of achieving that is if we see the end of all armed groups," he said.

"That is the best way we see of proceeding."

The Ulster Unionists welcomed the prime minister's speech.

David Trimble said there was "an unambiguous finger pointing towards the IRA and the role of republicans in destabilising unionist confidence".

However, he added: "The crucial question is how will the government follow through in terms of what must be done over the next few months?"

Mr Trimble is expected to respond further to the prime minister's statement when he addresses his party's annual conference in Londonderry on Saturday.

Further talks are expected to take place behind the scenes between politicians and officials in an attempt to restore confidence in the political process.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Burroughs
"Unhappy that once again they have been blamed for the breakdown of the peace process"
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams:
"This is not a time for deadlines"
Ulster Unionist MP David Burnside:
"This was flagged as a significant speech but what action is there"

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