Accessibility links

Protestant Leader Questions IRA Disarmament Offer - 2001-08-07

Northern Ireland's Protestant leader, David Trimble, says the Irish Republican Army's offer to begin disarmament is not enough to save the province's peace process. Mr. Trimble says it is time for the IRA to actually disarm.

Mr. Trimble met for two hours in Belfast with leaders of his Ulster Unionist Party to discuss the IRA offer.

The IRA told an international disarmament commission Monday that it is ready to put its weapons "completely and verifiably" beyond use.

But after the Unionist meeting, Mr. Trimble emerged to reject the IRA's disarmament offer, which is known locally as "decommissioning."We have seen a step by republicans," Mr. Trimble said, "but of course it falls far short of what we need, which is to see the decommissioning actually begin rather than simply preparatory procedural steps towards it."

Leaders of the main republican party, the Sinn Fein, are harshly critical of Mr. Trimble, saying even the international disarmament commission has welcomed the IRA proposal.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness says it is the biggest setback in three-years of peace negotiations. "What David Trimble has done in rejecting the determination of the international decommissioning body is the greatest mistake of all," Mr. McGuinness said. "It is the biggest blunder of all."

The IRA offer had been welcomed by Irish and British leaders.

Mr. Trimble resigned last month as senior minister of Northern Ireland's coalition government in protest over the IRA's refusal to disarm.

Britain and Ireland have offered a new peace proposal in hopes of salvaging Northern Ireland's government, but Mr. Trimble says the peace plan is not acceptable unless and until the IRA starts disarming.

If there is no resolution by Sunday, Britain may have to call new elections in Northern Ireland or resume direct rule over the province.