30/04/2002

Temperatures elevated as debate rages on IRA ceasefire

Political temperatures have remained elevated following the failed Ulster Unionist motion calling for the Secretary of State to make a determination on the status of the IRA ceasefire.

Alliance party leader David Ford accused the SDLP of "sitting on their hands" for their refusal to back an amended motion put forward by Alliance, and Ulster Unionists angrily described the DUP’s decision to vote with Sinn Fein as an "unholy alliance.” PUP leader David Ervine said the process was clearly in "trouble".

UUP leader David Trimble said the DUP had "elected to let Sinn Fein / IRA off the hook, driven purely by bitter callousness. In fact they hate us more than they hate Sinn Fein.”

A spokesman for the UUP Assembly Group said: “There is no reason why the DUP could not have supported the UUP motion. Instead they decided to get into bed with Sinn Fein / IRA. They have demonstrated to the electorate that they are not interested in Unionist unity. It is obvious they simply wanted to use the occasion to attack David Trimble and the UUP.

“Then they made a total laughing stock of themselves by walking into the lobby hand in hand with Sinn Fein.

Last week, the US Foreign Relations Committee Hearing in Washington heard evidence that alleged links between the IRA and the FARC rebels in Colombia. Unionists also pointed to "intelligence sources" that indicate possible republican links to the Castlereagh break-in.

Alliance leader David Ford has criticised the SDLP for failing to work with other parties and for not backing a compromise motion on the status of the IRA ceasefire on Monday. He said: "It would appear that the SDLP is prepared to criticise terrorism, but actions speak louder than words, and the SDLP's action in the Assembly has been hard to see.

The proposed Alliance's amendment would have removed the implicit UUP suggestion of guilt on the IRA's part, and also taken into account loyalist violence.

However, prior to the vote SDLP leader Mark Durkan was adamant that his party would not be supporting the Ulster Unionist motion.

Speaking on Radio Ulster Mr Durkan said that in Northern Ireland turbulence was to be expected, but was no reason for threatening to "crash land" the political process.

(SP)

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