Wed, Dec 08, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Paisley demands photographs of IRA disarmament

PEACE TALKS The hard-line Protestant leader said he would not back any deal unless it contained the Irish Republican Army's full disbandment


The Irish Republican Army (IRA) must have its disarmament photographed for publication, Nor-thern Ireland's hard-line Protes-tant leader declared after another negotiating session with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"If you sin publicly, you have to repent publicly," said the Reverend Ian Paisley, emphasizing that the IRA must not conduct its disarmament activities in secret, as has happened three times previously in Northern Ireland's decade-old peace process.

Speaking outside Blair's Downing Street office after hourlong talks on Monday, the 78-year-old Paisley said he wasn't going to back any new peace deal unless it contained the IRA's full disarmament and disbandment.

Blair, who has spent seven years pursuing a lasting settlement for Northern Ireland, had been seeking firm approval Monday from Paisley for a proposed new peace package.

The deal, backed by Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, would require the IRA to disarm fully and Paisley to forge a new coalition with Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party.

In a potentially significant move, Sinn Fein announced on Monday night that its leader, Gerry Adams, has recommended to senior party activists in Belfast that they back the Anglo-Irish plans.

Sinn Fein said in a statement that Adams had "told the meeting that he believes that Sinn Fein can say yes to the political package as now presented."

Blair and Ahern -- who originally presented their plans to Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists last month, and have been refining them in consultation with both parties since -- tentatively planned to publish the finished product later this week in Belfast.

The plan requires support from both Sinn Fein, which is backed by most Catholics, and by the Democratic Unionists led by firebrand Paisley, who has spent the past four decades seeking to thwart compromise in Northern Ireland.

Paisley, whose party repre-sents most of the province's British Protestant majority, stressed he wasn't willing to say "yes" or "no" to anything until the IRA ceases to be a threat to Northern Ireland's stability.

Earlier Monday, Adams, a reputed IRA commander since the mid-1970s, said Paisley's demands -- which include publication of photographs of the process of IRA disarmament -- were threatening to torpedo any deal. He said the key question was whether Paisley would ever commit to power-sharing with Catholics.

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