Adams rejects `spurious' claims as unionists seek to expel Sinn Fein


The Stormont talks yesterday were dominated by growing unionist pressure for the expulsion of Sinn Fein from the process, following the recent murders. The party's president, Mr Gerry Adams, said any such move would be firmly resisted, and added that claims of IRA involvement were "spurious".

The Ulster Unionist Party leader said the IRA was "probably" directly or indirectly responsible for the killings in Belfast of Mr Brendan Campbell and Mr Robert Dougan.

Mr David Trimble said he believed the RUC Chief Constable, Mr Ronnie Flanagan, could establish this and as a result Sinn Fein would be forced from the talks because it would then be in breach of the Mitchell Principles of democracy and non-violence.

Mr Trimble blamed Direct Action Against Drugs, which he said was a cover-name for the IRA, for the murder of Mr Campbell, an alleged drugs dealer, on Monday night. Whoever murdered Mr Dougan yesterday was acting with the authority of the IRA, he said. As Mr Flanagan had recently described DAAD as a "flag of convenience for the IRA" it was presumable that the IRA was behind Mr Campbell's death.

"I do not yet know which element within the republican movement was responsible for the murder of Mr Dougan. But we can be fairly sure that no element in the republican movement could operate . . . without the acquiescence, if not the approval, of the IRA. So the probability is that the IRA was responsible for both murders," added Mr Trimble.

In the coming days, he said, the onus would lie with Mr Flanagan to state who was responsible, as he had when he said there was evidence to prove that the UDA carried out several killings after Christmas. It was this evidence together with the UDA's subsequent statement of admission that led to the withdrawal of the Ulster Democratic Party from the talks.

Mr Trimble said that, even if the IRA were to adopt a "no claim, no blame" response to the killings, and even if there were no ballistic evidence to point to IRA weapons being used in the attacks, it could still be established that the IRA was responsible for the murders. He appealed for no loyalist retaliation. "I hope loyalists will realise the futility of being involved in this sort of action," he said.

Sinn Fein president Mr Gerry Adams described the allegations of IRA involvement as "spurious". He claimed the UUP reaction differed significantly to its response when the UDA was killing Catholics. "The speed with which they have moved [against Sinn Fein] is in marked contrast to the conspiracy of silence which surrounded the killings after Christmas," he said.

"Sinn Fein is here. We are here in good faith. We are here on the basis of our electoral mandate. We represent no one else except our party, and we want to see all killings brought to an end," said Mr Adams. He described Sinn Fein as a "free-standing party".

"Regardless of what indictments are brought against us we will defend the rights of the electorate and the mandate that we have and the analysis and the strategy that we pursue," he added.

The North's political development minister, Mr Paul Murphy, condemned the killings. "If the attack is shown to have been committed by an organisation connected with a participant in these talks then the implications of that will need to be very seriously examined," he said.

Mr Mark Durkan of the SDLP said his party would not speculate on who had carried out the killings. "If anything clarifies or establishes itself in terms of evidence or admissions, then as before the governments will have a course of action to follow," he said.

The DUP deputy leader, Mr Peter Robinson, said Sinn Fein must be expelled from the talks. "The people of Northern Ireland do not need an IRA admission. They know the IRA is guilty," he added.