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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 October, 2004, 13:55 GMT 14:55 UK
DUP 'wants to humiliate IRA'
Mitchell McLaughlin
Mitchel McLaughlin said the DUP was moving the goalposts
The DUP is seeking to humiliate the IRA over its demand for visible decommissioning, Sinn Fein's chairman has said.

Mitchel McLaughlin told the BBC's Inside Politics programme on Saturday that the DUP were moving the goalposts and increasing the threshold in relation to an end to IRA arms and activity.

"We have heard all the stuff about Steven Spielberg-type coverage of IRA initiatives (on decommissioning)," he said.

"Those kind of things are designed to be provocative and also designed to be counter-effective in terms of any goal of taking arms out of the equation."

The institutions in Northern Ireland were suspended two years ago amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at the Northern Ireland Office.

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DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said his party's position on IRA decommissioning and activity had been clear and consistent throughout the negotiating process.

"The DUP has not moved the goalposts on the issue of building confidence regarding decommissioning and the need to end all IRA activity, whether terrorist or criminal," he said.

"We have been very clear that the days of smoke and mirror tricks are over and that there must be a visual aspect to the decommissioning of IRA weaponry."

He added: "Mitchel McLaughlin's remarks would appear to be indicative of someone who is attempting to develop an exit strategy from the process and who is only interested in disengaging from making the commitment that Sinn Fein/IRA know must be made."

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson said the DUP had not moved the goalposts
Earlier this week, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams accused the DUP of making demands on the IRA when its own power-sharing credentials were "unproven".

Mr Adams said the governments were satisfied the IRA was going to make an "unprecedented contribution" to the process in the context of a comprehensive agreement. But, he said, Ian Paisley's party still had a "mountain to climb" if there was to be a resolution.

Writing in the Irish Voice newspaper on Thursday, Mr Adams said the DUP was demanding fundamental changes to the Agreement which were "unacceptable".

'Difficult issues'

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy warned the British and Irish Governments still faced some "very difficult" issues in bridging the gap between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Speaking on Wednesday after meeting Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern in Dublin, Mr Murphy said both governments were determined to continue their efforts.

He said he hoped the outstanding difficulties could be resolved within weeks rather than months.

Earlier this week, Mr Ahern said he hoped for an improvement in the political situation but could not guarantee it.

The sticking points have included the method of electing a first and deputy first minister, a date when the assembly can control policing, and whether or not 30 assembly members can challenge ministerial decisions.

At the conclusion of intensive political talks at Leeds Castle in Kent last month, Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern said the thorny issues of IRA disarmament and future paramilitary activity appeared to be resolved.

However, the two governments were unable to get the Northern Ireland Assembly parties to sign up to a deal over power-sharing after unionists and nationalists clashed over future devolved institutions.




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