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British Prime Minister Tony Blair
"Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness would be crazy not to be committed to the peace process"
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Monday, 7 February, 2000, 13:52 GMT
Critical week for Northern Ireland

Weapons issue remains bitterly divisive

The Northern Ireland peace process is entering one of its most critical weeks as the deadline nears for the suspension of the political institutions.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson has said the work of the Assembly and its powersharing executive will be halted by Friday, unless there is a breakthrough on the arms issue.

The Search for Peace
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Link to Sir Christopher Patten
Link to Decommissioning
Link to Good Friday Agreement
The House of Commons will begin the second reading of legislation on Tuesday which would freeze devolution after only eight weeks.

On Saturday Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and First Minister and Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble held a crisis meeting at Stormont to discuss the IRA's refusal to start decommissioning its weapons.

The Ulster Unionists have said they cannot continue in government with Sinn Fein while the IRA still holds the threat of arms and so the British government is moving towards suspending the political insitutions to prevent their total collapse.

Dissident bomb shock

Shockwaves were sent through the peace process when a bomb exploded at Mahon's hotel Irvinestown, Fermanagh on Sunday night.

The explosion was 35 minutes after a warning was phoned to the hotel and Belfast newsrooms, by a caller claiming to be from the Continuity IRA, the only republican group not on ceasefire.

The intensification of the threat from dissident republicans opposed to the IRA's limited involvement with the International Decommissioning Commission has put the political process under even great stress.

No-one was injured after the evacuation was complete, 15 minutes before the explosion.

The attack has followed warnings by the Irish police and Royal Ulster Constabulary that the threat from dissidents was increasing.

The bomb also came just hours after a plea from Prime Minister Tony Blair for paramilitaries to leave the symbols of the past, including weapons, behind.

Speaking at a Labour conference in Blackpool Mr Blair said the decommissioning issue was not going to go away and must be faced now.

Hume decommissioning appeal

The leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party John Hume and Ulster Unionist security spokesman Ken Maginnis were due to attend a meeting to discuss rural transport development at the hotel on Monday.

John Hume: Will of the people John Hume: Will of the people
In an unprecedented statement published in Monday edition of the Belfast nationalist Irish News newspaper Mr Hume has called on the IRA to decommission some semtex explosive.

Writing before Sunday's bomb attack Mr Hume suggests the IRA should arrange for semtex to be collected from a certain location by General John de Chastelain who heads the decommissioning body.

The Nobel Peace Prizewinner says decommissioning would be "voluntary and patriotic", and an act of respect for the will of the Irish people.

Ken Maginnis: Still need for decommissioning Ken Maginnis: Still need for decommissioning
David Trimble is to meet members of his party executive and senior party colleagues at UUP headquarters in Belfast to discuss the their position later on Monday.

Mr Trimble is due to face his party's ruling executive on Saturday to review the decision to form a government with Sinn Fein before IRA decommissioning.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster on Monday, MP for the Fermanagh area Ken Maginnis, said the bomb attack did not change the need for IRA disarmament.

He said: "If the war is over then disarmament and disbandment of organisations should take place and it doesn't matter if whether it's the Provisional IRA or the Continuity IRA, they are acting in defiance of the expressed will of the people of Ireland."

Sinn Fein has been threatening a legal challenge to the government plans to suspend the Assembly and power-sharing executive.

Gerry Adams: Gerry Adams: "Shuttling between IRA and others"
Speaking to the BBC after the Fermanagh bomb Gerry Adams said the people who carried out the attack were "not acting in the interests of Irish republicanism".

"They are not representative of any real section of the Irish people and they should disband," he said.

The IRA released a statement on decommissioning on Saturday which met with a lukewarm response from both the Irish and British Governments.

The IRA said the arms issue "will not be advanced by British legislative threats" or unionists threats.

Writing in the Belfast Sunday Life newspaper on Sunday Gerry Adams said he was now in the difficult position of shuttling between the IRA and others in an effort to avert the current crisis.

"One thing is certain, the process does not have to collapse. It can be saved if the political will exists," he said.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon of the SDLP said the bombers were attempting to affect the peace process.

"Once again we have the paradox of those who were involved and committed to the use of violence and all their murderous activities are trying to make up the minds of people politically," he said.

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See also:
06 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Bomb attack condemned
07 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Bombing follows dissident pattern
06 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Direct rule legal threat
05 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
IRA statement in full
03 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Peter Mandelson's statement in full
04 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Date set for NI direct rule
04 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Suspending the assembly: Key facts
04 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
The Agreement on decommissioning
04 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Sadness surrounding the NI crisis
03 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Unreality as NI faces crisis
03 Feb 00 |  UK
The IRA and the arms question
07 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Bomb 'will not derail peace'

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