N. Ireland Peace Deal’s Terms Argued

<i> From Times Wire Services</i>

Protestant leader David Trimble reiterated Saturday that the Irish Republican Army must decommission some arms before a joint Roman Catholic-Protestant government can be formed.

Speaking to more than 700 members of his Ulster Unionist Party’s ruling council, Trimble received a standing ovation--and some heckling from those who fear that he will soften his demands for IRA weapons.

Trimble, elected to lead the new Protestant-Catholic government at the core of last year’s Good Friday peace accord, has been refusing to accept the right of IRA-allied Sinn Fein politicians to take part unless the IRA starts to disarm first.


Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in turn blamed Trimble for delaying political progress and accused him of endangering the peace process.

“The whole process is being brought to the cliff’s edge by David Trimble’s posture and by his refusal to deal sensibly with these issues,” Adams said in Belfast.

Sinn Fein leaders say the accord does not make IRA disarmament a condition of its entry to government.

The new government is scheduled to take power April 2, this year’s Good Friday. Adams said he will meet with Trimble for more talks this week.

President Clinton and British and Irish prime ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern issued a joint statement on Friday urging the parties not to squander the gains of the hard-won agreement.

Political analysts said that Blair and Ahern might return to Northern Ireland in a bid to get the province’s parties to reach a deal by the deadline, which comes on the eve of a traditionally volatile period of Protestant street demonstrations.


British Northern Ireland Secretary Marjorie “Mo” Mowlam said some progress had been made at the leaders’ meeting in the United States simply by virtue of the fact that the sides were talking.

The province’s key rival politicians returned from the U.S. after attending official functions marking St. Patrick’s Day and talks with Clinton.

IRA supporters, meanwhile, hijacked and burned several vehicles Saturday in a Catholic stronghold in Lurgan, the town 30 miles southwest of Belfast where a prominent Catholic lawyer was killed by a car bomb last week.

On Saturday, British army explosives experts defused a crude bomb left outside the home of a high-profile IRA critic, Vincent McKenna.