British Official Wants IRA Action

This image made available by Britian's Northern Ireland Office (NIO) shows Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain speaking in Belfast, Wednesday Sept. 21, 2005. Hain Wednesday challenged loyalist paramilitaries to follow the political path or face the full rigour of the law. They appeared to have degenerated into Mafia organisations, he said, and would not be tolerated. (AP Photo/NIO, HO)
AP
The outlawed Irish Republican Army must deliver soon on its July 28 promises to disarm and cease all threatening activities, Britain's Northern Ireland minister said Wednesday in his first major speech on the peace process.

Peter Hain, who was appointed Northern Ireland secretary in May, said widespread Protestant rioting earlier this month was fueled, in part, by fears about the province's Good Friday peace accord of 1998.

The complex deal proposed a list of goals, including disarmament of the IRA by mid-2000, that were designed to promote compromise between the British Protestant majority and Irish Catholic minority and end a conflict that has claimed more than 3,600 lives since 1969.

The senior moderate Catholic politician, Social Democratic and Labour Party leader Mark Durkan, backed Hain's call for immediate IRA moves.

"We are two months on from the IRA statement and 64 months on from the deadline for completing (weapons) decommissioning in the agreement. The scrapping of IRA weapons is long overdue. It needs to happen now without further delay. The longer the IRA strings this out, the more it damages the Good Friday agreement," Durkan said.

Ian Paisley, whose hard-line Democratic Unionist Party represents most Protestants, accused Britain of repeatedly making concessions to Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party that represents most Catholics, to ensure that the IRA didn't abandon its 1997 cease-fire.

"Time and time again, violence and the threat of violence has reaped dividends for the men of violence. The fear of IRA terror has resulted in the government granting item after item from the republican wish list," Paisley said.

"The fact of the matter is, we never had a real, genuine, honest cease-fire from the IRA," he said.