Blair Steps Up the Rhetoric

D OC donaloc at
Thu Jul 25 08:21:45 MDT 2002

This is the latest in Trimble's gambit to pull down the Executive. Blair is
focussing on SF and the IRA at a time when Loyalists are actually killing
Catholics on the streets.

I think Blair's trying to create space for Trimble to placate his
anti-agreement party members. The problem with that is the assumption that
Trimble wants to placate this group. I suspect he will only stay in
Government if he feels safe from the DUP outflanking him and his party can
survive the election next May. The problem is that by actually creating more
of an issue out of the IRA ceasefire, Trimble is actually adding to the
credibility of the 'pure' DUP. It's actually an object lesson in politics.
There are so many different groups with differing objectives and strategies.

Needless to say, Blair's new criteria for assessing the IRA ceasefire is
another fudge - it will be 'informed' by whether groups are planning,
recruiting, arming or gathering information. Whether Blair decides that the
IRA are breaching their ceasefire by doing these things will be determined
by events on the ground as opposed to the facts of the case. If he excludes
SF from the Executive [a political party with no guns!] and effectively
kills the GFA, things will get hairy indeed so I would be surprised if he
would do that. Perhaps, however, he will, confident in getting US support in
this period of turmoil. Whatever happens we won't lie down anyway.


Thursday, 25 July, 2002, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Blair warning on ceasefire breaches

PM said settlements lead to "messy compromises"

The government is prepared to move against Sinn Fein if the IRA ceasefire is
breached, the prime minister has said. Tony Blair said there could be "no
twin track of politics and violence".

Speaking at the second of his "presidential-style" media briefings on
Thursday, Mr Blair said there must be a return to "first principles" over
ceasefires and participation in Northern Ireland's government.

While recognising loyalist violence, Mr Blair said it was Sinn Fein and the
republican movement which was sitting in government.

"We are looking carefully, as John Reid said yesterday, at precisely how to
give credibility to any assessment. That we have some mechanism to assist us
in this process," he said.

He added: "We have to be able as a government to make a judgement
necessarily more rigorous as time goes on that if these activities continue
it is inconsistent with people being on a ceasefire."

Mr Blair there was "no doubt at all" that if the ceasefire was breached the
secretary of state would put a motion before the Northern Ireland Assembly.

He added: "Sinn Fein are in government and it is quite clear that you cannot
carry on in government unless you are committed to exclusively peaceful


Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist leader is meeting his assembly party to
discuss the implications of Wednesday's Commons statement by the prime
minister on the Northern Ireland ceasefires.

David Trimble had asked for the statement, but was disappointed the
government did not take a tougher line with paramilitaries.

Mr Trimble will use Thursday afternoon's meeting to assess the current mood
within his assembly group. It has backed him in the past.

In the Commons statement, Mr Blair said there would be a rigorous response
to breaches of loyalist and republican ceasefires.

But he stopped short of outlining any new sanctions against parties linked
to paramilitary groups.

The statement was in response to pressure from unionists for Sinn Fein's
exclusion from the Stormont executive for what they claim are breaches of
the IRA ceasefire.

Mr Trimble is keeping his options open. It may be September until he makes
his final decision. In the meantime, attempts may be made by hardliners to
try to force his hand.

They want him to withdraw the party from government, forcing the collapse of
the assembly.

The government's assessment camem against a backdrop of recent trouble in
Belfast and the sectarian killing of a teenager which was admitted by the
loyalist paramilitary Ulster Freedom Fighters.

snip...for more see

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