Adams 'bitterly disappointed' by latest impasse

 

The Sinn Féin president, Mr Adams, has expressed "bitter disappointment" following the ending of efforts to resolve the impasse over IRA arms decommissioning.

"I am bitterly disappointed, but I have learned to go beyond the personal because it is too important," Mr Adams told journalists.

Talks between Sinn Féin and the Ulster Unionist Party to end the crisis that upstaged last Tuesday's carefully arranged political choreography will not take place until after the November 26th elections.

The final end to hopes came at a Belfast meeting last night of the Ulster Unionist's 13-strong officer board, led by the party's leader, Mr Trimble.

Meanwhile, a meeting of the 900-strong ruling Ulster Unionist Council, which had been scheduled to take place on Wednesday, has been cancelled. Mr Trimble said: "There is not, unfortunately, time at the moment to be able to sort all these matters out."

Laying the blame at the door of the IRA, he said: "The public have not seen the goods. Secret decommissioning doesn't create public confidence. We put proposals which, had they been accepted by Republicans, we would have run with them, and Republicans indicated that those proposals would not be acceptable."

Hopes that a last-minute compromise could be reached finally ran out yesterday afternoon when it became clear that little serious discussion had taken place between Sinn Féin and the UUP since Sunday night.

Once again acknowledging the scale of last week's moves by Sinn Féin and the IRA, Mr Trimble said: "What we did not have was the transparency, or that we are coming to completion."

Progress could have been achieved if there had "been a few more days", but "the inexorable movement" of the elections meant that this was not possible.

The UUP would enter the election campaign confidently, despite the talks collapse. "Things have changed enormously for the better. We have seen a huge reduction in violence - not eliminated.

"We have seen put in place new political arrangements - not working perfectly, I agree. And we are the only unionist party who can finish the job."

The Sinn Féin president, Mr Adams, acknowledged that a pre-election solution is now impossible: "I am bitterly disappointed and lots of other people will be bitterly disappointed.

"It is quite incredible that, after all the work that went into trying to sort this out, that we now end up in a situation where public confidence has been damaged."

However, Sinn Féin would not suffer electorally, he believed: "I am going to the people and I am going to ask them to support what we did because I stand over what we did. We did the right thing, the IRA did the right thing," said Mr Adams.

Asked how close the two sides had come to a deal last Tuesday, Mr Adams told journalists: "It's impossible to know we had an agreement. We had an agreed sequence. I can stand that up."

Talks would resume after the elections, he said. "Obviously it has to be worked out. We value the relationship that we have built up with the UUP. We need to continue with that and develop it," he said, though he refused to follow through on hints that he would publish all the documentation surrounding the deal, including UUP papers.