24 January 2006

Government 'happy' at level of IRA criminality

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
24 January 2006

The DUP today accused the Government of signalling to the IRA there is an "acceptable level of criminality".

As a party delegation met Tony Blair in Downing Street this afternoon, deputy leader Peter Robinson said the credibility of direct rule Ministers had been seriously damaged by attempts to spin the "high level" of criminality in which the Provisionals are still engaged.

The delegation led by Ian Paisley was also expected to demand evidence the Government intends to tackle a range of confidence building measures for unionists in the near future.

Apart from its 16-page paper outlining its views on the prospects for devolution, the party was also tabling a second document demanding Government action across loyalist areas.

As revealed in the Belfast Telegraph last month, the proposals - including pro-active recruitment policies for Protestants - form part of its price for participation in renewed negotiations.

But the party is said to have accepted an invitation to attend talks to be co- chaired by Secretary of State Peter Hain and Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern in Hillsborough on February 6.

Mr Blair and his officials will want, however, to tease out how the DUP envisages the potential for full-blown Executive devolution developing.

Apart from talks on February 6, second follow-up round is anticipated around a fortnight later and Mr Blair is expected to deliver an address in Belfast.

But Mr Robinson asked today: "What trust could anyone have in a government which so blatantly dismisses the evidence provided to them by their most senior advisers?"

The East Belfast MP argued the Government knows it is disseminating a dishonest view of IRA criminal activity which he described as a "grossly irresponsible and perilous course".

"The Government is sending a message to the gangsters in the IRA that the present level of criminality is an acceptable level of illegality and is consistent with membership of an executive," he said.

The DUP was also expected to raise the anticipated redundancy package for Royal Irish Regiment soldiers and a revamp of parades legislation.

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