McDowell calls on IRA to disband before UK election


The IRA has been challenged to wind up its operations before next month's general election. The Minister for Justice Michael McDowell said yesterday he feared that Gerry Adams' call on the IRA to abandon the gun and embrace politics forever was an election stunt to mop up the maximum nationalist votes.

But he said of the possible disbandment today: "I have no doubt that Gerry Adams is telling them in code: 'Listen, the game is up. We're going nowhere. Both Sinn Fein and the IRA are going nowhere unless we crack this particular problem."'

"That's what I'm asking them to do. I'm demanding of them to do it. There is no way forward for the Provisional movement as long as the IRA is in business."

The IRA has said it will respond soon to Mr Adams' call last Wednesday to "take courageous initiatives which will achieve your aims by purely political and democratic activity."

But speaking at his Progressive Democrats' party conference in Cork, Mr McDowell said of the appeal: "It is part of electoral stage-setting to effectively say to the nationalist people of Northern Ireland: 'Look we're going to make another big move now. Just give us the mandate one more time and we'll do it."'

"I don't think that they will do that because they will try to keep their options open. The IRA strategy has always been to see who is weak and to see what concessions they can extract."

He said Mr Adams' Belfast speech wasn't made without prior consultation with IRA Army Council members. "It didn't just occur to him to make it, sitting in bed one morning.

"It is part of a carefully-choreographed campaign," he added. Mr McDowell also told RTE Radio of the "excessive optimism" about the IRA's intentions up to last December's aborted power-sharing deal. "

"There was an element of trust between all the participants. The optimists believed the IRA was planning to go out of business but the realists said if they can't subscribe to this simple formula of respecting the rights and safety of others, it's clear they want to stay in business in some modified form."

"They were leaving the door open for the IRA to stay in existence as a lightly-armed group of people," he said.