Unionists solidly reject Irish accord

Protestant leader decries 11th-hour deal as `a con'

July 04, 1999|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

PORTADOWN, Northern Ireland -- From the hilltop Drumcree Church here, overlooking a field of razor wire and armored police jeeps, to the fortified headquarters of the Ulster Unionist Party in Northern Ireland's capital, Protestants were in no mood yesterday to compromise for peace.

The 18-foot steel barricade that the army has erected to keep Protestants out of a Roman Catholic neighborhood during the annual Drumcree march in Portadown today was emblazoned with the same sectarian message that has fanned 30 years of bloodshed: "No Government For Sinn Fein-IRA."

Ken Maginnis, one of the Ulster Unionist Party's more moderate leaders, categorically rejected the 11th-hour proposal to salvage last year's Good Friday peace agreement as "a con."

"We cannot accept this. It is not an option, it is an ultimatum," Maginnis told the BBC's Ulster Radio. "There is nothing in this for unionism."

The deal to create a Protestant-Catholic government in Northern Ireland and to disarm the Irish Republican Army offers something to both sides in the conflict and requires each to make sacrifices.

The plan was put forward Friday by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart, Bertie Ahern, after five days of negotiations failed to produce an agreement between the Protestant and Catholic parties. It calls for the establishment of a Northern Ireland government by July 15 that would take powers from Britain three days later.

Pub Date: 7/04/99

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