Tuesday 16 October 2018

Sinn Fein warned that time running out for end to paramilitary violence

Gene McKennaPolitical Editor

NEW pressure on Sinn Fein and the Provisional movement is being exerted by both the Irish and British Governments who have warned them that time is running out for the ending of paramilitary violence for good.

That clear message was delivered by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness in a meeting at Government Buildings last night.

The meeting was the first between the Government and republican movement since the alleged involvement of the Provisional IRA in the Belfast kidnapping of dissident republican Bobby Tohill last Friday. Mr Ahern had told the Dail earlier in the day that the time for all forms of paramilitarism to come to an end in Northern Ireland was "long past".

Mr Ahern said it appeared that Mr Tohill had been abducted last week with the intention of taking him across the border and "executing" him.

And he understood that the abduction victim had received 93 stitches following the intervention of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

He said he was "not in lecturing mode" but added that he would be outlining to Mr McGuinness that "these kind of activities cannot go on with normal political activities."

But Mr McGuinness maintained that an "anti-Sinn Fein and anti-Northern Ireland peace process" agenda was being pursued by the PSNI, who were "doing their damnedest to undermine Sinn Fein's participation within the peace process."

He said arrests that followed the Belfast incident "were clearly done because the PSNI wanted to capture the weekend headlines and paint as black a picture as they possibly could for republican participation in the peace process.

On Tuesday, the two Governments announced that the Independent Monitoring Commission would examine the events surrounding the Tohill abduction.

But Mr Ahern said that while they had resisted calls for Sinn Fein's exclusion, "this cannot go on forever".

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned Sinn Fein that they could only take part in the Good Friday Agreement talks "if they are fully part of the democratic club".

He added: "You cannot be talking about human rights for people one day and beating the human rights out of them the next day. That is not acceptable."

A source commenting on behalf of the Provisionals' leadership, told the republican newspaper An Phoblacht that "the IRA did not authorise any action against Bobby Tohill".

The IRA statement came as Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble threatened to pull out of talks on the review of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

He said in the House of Commons that it was "utterly unreasonable" to expect his party to remain in the talks with republicans.

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