Halt paramilitary activity, Blair tells IRA wing

`Dual strategy' threatens N. Ireland peace, he says

October 11, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

LONDON - Prime Minister Tony Blair told Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams yesterday that Irish republicans had to abandon their "dual strategy" of combining paramilitary activity with participation in politics if peace in Northern Ireland is to be assured.

"We still in Belfast and elsewhere have got pockets of real and totally unacceptable violence, we have got a situation where there is still a mix between the political and the paramilitary strategies of the republicans," Blair said.

He made his remarks to ITV news after an hour-long crisis meeting at 10 Downing St. with Adams and other leaders of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army.

Blair called the session after police raids on the homes of Sinn Fein officials and the party's parliamentary offices in Belfast on Oct. 4 turned up information that the IRA was conducting espionage and assembling personal details on police constables, army officers, British security personnel and Protestant paramilitary leaders.

The blow to the peace process is the worst in its crisis-ridden history, and Blair is expected to have to suspend the home rule government and reinstall direct rule from London next week. He said yesterday that he still hoped the Catholic-Protestant power-sharing administration would become the permanent government of Northern Ireland but that it could not keep functioning unless all the parties were committed to "exclusively peaceful means."

"It is inconsistent with that to have a political party and a paramilitary organization operating as well," he said, referring to Sinn Fein and its links to the IRA.

Adams said that his group wanted to see the end of all paramilitary groups, including the IRA, and that his party had been pursuing that goal through the peace process. Calls to suspend the government in Belfast were the wrong way to go about it, he said.

"How on earth can they hope to achieve that objective by tearing down the political architecture which was put in place to achieve that and other objectives," Adams said.

David Trimble, first minister of the assembly and the leader of the Ulster Unionists, announced three weeks ago that his party would resign en masse in mid-January if the IRA had not taken significant steps to disarm and disband by then.

That unionist objection to further cooperation with Sinn Fein became intensified with the Oct. 4 events, and Trimble responded by moving the date of the ultimatum up to next week.

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