Paisley: Blair 'funds IRA criminality'

Money for Sinn Fein ignites DUP leader's fury

Ian Paisley, the Democratic Unionist Party's leader, launched a blistering attack on the Prime Minister yesterday, on the eve of all-party talks in Northern Ireland, accusing him of 'encouraging' IRA criminality.

In an uncompromising speech to his party's annual conference in Belfast yesterday, Paisley also pledged that he would not talk to the Irish government.

The DUP leader's continued hardline stance means there is virtually no chance of any success in the inter-party discussions aimed at restoring devolution. Both the Irish and British governments privately concede there is no prospect of reaching a political settlement this year.

Addressing more than 500 delegates, Paisley said that instead of weaning the IRA off crime Tony Blair 'goes on encouraging them in criminality'.

The North Antrim MP's criticism of the Prime Minister centred on the British government's decision last week to give Sinn Fein further money from the public purse.

'The IRA continues its intelligence gathering and directing its spying to further its political strategy, yet they expect us to believe that they are committed to democratic means alone. Their continuing targeting of "public and other institutions" should surely be a warning to the government that the reinstating of Sinn Fein allowances is nothing short of pure folly,' he said. On the prospects of a political deal this year, Paisley drew rapturous applause from DUP members when he thundered: 'It's not, it's not and it will never be on.'

Turning to the Irish government, Paisley contrasted Bertie Ahern's unwillingness to enter a coalition with Sinn Fein in Dublin to the Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrats' insistence that unionists must share power with the republican party north of the border. 'The message to Dublin must be if the IRA is not acceptable to you, they cannot be forced upon us.'

Paisley said that he would oppose any return to an all-inclusive power-sharing executive modelled on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. 'The day for the inclusive executive on such a basis is over forever. It is buried in a Sadducee's grave from which there is no resurrection. The foundation of the Agreement stinks in the grave, dug with the spade of truth.'

To the Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Hain, the DUP leader said: 'You just keep spinning until your head is dizzy. Government spinning cannot destroy the truth.'

He singled out the findings of last week's International Monitoring Commission report, which found that the IRA was still engaged in criminality and spying, as a vindication of the DUP's policy line.

However, Paisley insisted he was interested in working with what he called 'democrats'.

He said: 'To those who say we will not work with our Roman Catholic fellow countrymen and women, let me say that we will work with all democrats, regardless of where they come from, but we will have no truck with those who pursue terror and criminality.'


Henry McDonald, Ireland editor

The GuardianTramp

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